Given current concerns about the cost-effectiveness of home health care, better targeting of home health services for high risk groups is viewed as one way to provide controls on both service delivery and costs. The purpose of this exploratory study was to determine the degree to which patients with identifiable levels of need for services were referred for home health care and if selected clinical and functional status measures are useful in distinguishing need for service. Using a convenience sample of 145 patients ready for hospital discharge, data were collected on physical function, dependency at discharge, perceived helpfulness of others, social support, readiness for self-care, and planned adherence to treatment as well as demographic and medical variables. Using a combination of study variables, 93% of patients not in need of services could be correctly classified. In addition, patients in need of service but not referred by their physicians were found to differ significantly from patients not in need of care on all dimensions. Suggestions are offered for further research to determine if and what systematic factors influence referral decisions for home health care and which specific patient characteristics are associated with the most cost-effective long-term outcomes. ©1995 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.