Referral and linkage systems are key components of improved service demand and accessibility. Effective referral systems combine high-quality communication and operations (structure, monitoring systems and referral tools). Doing this well requires collaboration between the SBCC partner (often responsible for the look and feel of a referral system, particularly if it is branded) and the service delivery partner (responsible for acknowledging and accepting referrals for services). Both partners must agree on the management structure and procedures, timeline, key responsibilities, monitoring system and referral tools that comprise the system. Since SBCC and service delivery both have a role in this process, this requires collaboration. If a brand is developed, all partners should participate in the brand design and be oriented to the final brand strategy.
The NURHI project developed an entire referral system for public, NGO and private providers in Nigeria. The system is structured such that referrals are generated through a number of channels: community-level social mobilizers, non-clinical providers (pharmacies and proprietary patent medical vendors) and facilities, which are defined as referrals made within a facility or between different facilities.
The new One Community project in Malawi is taking a proactive approach to designing its referral system. The project is actively consulting service delivery partners to understand their needs and challenges with demand creation.
For a link to the NURHI Referral Manual, see the NURHI Referral Guidelines.