Thursday, May 31, 2007

Q. I want to see how competitive bidding pans out in the first 10 areas before getting accredited. Is this a good strategy?
A. Absolutely not! CMS has not set a date yet, but ultimately, all HME providers must be accredited. It's going to happen. Start the accreditation process ASAP. Of course, if you plan to leave the industry, don't bother; your accreditation status may not transfer to the new owners without an additional survey.
If your plan is to remain in the industry, however, then get accredited now. Don't pick the easiest accrediting body out there; choose well because the future of your business depends on it. Pick the wrong accrediting body now and you will have to get reaccredited with the "right" accrediting body later.
Likewise, don't "shoestring" the accreditation process by completing an application, paying your fees but not preparing for the survey. This is a recipe for disaster. Accreditation denials are reported to CMS along with accreditation awards. If you fail accreditation, it could take six months to be eligible for a resurvey. Additionally, CMS can bar you from participating in Medicare and other federal healthcare programs.
If you do decide to get accredited, don't ask your bowling partner who used to work at a JCAHO-accredited hospital to help you figure it out. Seek professional assistance from a company that specializes in accreditation. That company should walk you step by step through the process to ensure a complete understanding of the quality standards. It's important that you understand why, and what, you are being asked to do and how it will impact your business.
And remember: Manufacturers have a responsibility to help their clients through these difficult times. We are already seeing that provider loyalty to manufacturers is not based solely on who gives the best deal on products. That's because HMEs rely on manufacturers to provide education and information to help them survive and navigate daily compliance issues. hme
Denise Jones is a partner with the IBNetwork Inc., a consulting firm that prepares HME providers to beome accredited. Reach her at 800-447-7201 or e-mail her at