‘You’ve got CMNs’

Sunday, August 31, 2003

WATERLOO, Iowa – Van G. Miller Group recently inked a deal with E-Click MD in the hopes that an electronic certificate of medical necessity system will motivate physicians to sign and return the documents fast. Whether that expectation pans out or not, VGM’s commitment to an e-CMN format sends a definite signal that the HME community is finally ready to use this new medium.

Although VGM members were still running last-minute tests at press time in mid-July, it shouldn’t be long before companies like Houston-based Apnix can gauge preliminary results. President Tim Aldridge hopes it will be a major improvement.

“We’re expecting a quicker turnaround and fewer errors and omissions that make us go over the same ground twice,” Aldridge said. “With the CMN being online, it forces correct completion before it can be sent back.”

Forging the agreement with E-Click MD at Medtrade Spring in May culminated two years of investigation into the e-CMN concept, said VGM’s Jim Schaefer. Between 60 and 80 VGM members have expressed interest in the program and four to date are signed up, he said.

“They had the best program available – it’s the easiest process for physicians and members to set up,” Schaefer said. “So we negotiated a price our members could afford to jump in and take advantage of.”

Landing VGM’s business is indeed a major coup for E-Click MD, said marketing agent Dennis Nasto.

“This validates our program and takes away concerns,” said Nasto, CEO of a San Diego-based health care sales and marketing firm called ZDMed. “VGM is the biggest [group purchasing organization] in the [HME] industry – when they do something, it has a lot of respectability.”

Although e-CMNs were cleared for Medicare use two years ago, the HME industry has been slow to embrace the medium. One of the key restraints has been the physician variable – whether the medical community would be receptive to filling out CMNs electronically.

E-Click MD’s proponents think they’ve solved that challenge by appealing to physicians in two ways: ease of use and dollar recovery potential.

“The product looks and works like Microsoft Outlook Express,” Nasto said. “But instead of ‘You’ve got mail,’ it tells the doctor ‘You’ve got CMNs.’”

An electronic signature program allows the physician to “sign” the CMN with a mouse click and ship to the provider.

Aldridge concedes that he initially had the same reservations about adopting the e-CMN format as the rest of the industry, but after scrutinizing the VGM/E-Click MD package, he felt the time was right.

“My initial concern was about what it would cost – CMNs are necessary, but not a revenue generator,” he said. “That cost drives to the bottom line. But when you compare costs versus man-hours and courier fees, it makes sense.”

The E-Click MD system, which is provided to the physician for no charge, also has a function that measures Medicare billable hours for home health services – a legitimate charge Nasto says many physicians are too busy to notice.

“This is money physicians are leaving on the table,” he said. “It’s a strong motivator.” HME