Accreditation rush

Sunday, December 10, 2006

WASHINGTON - Companies approved by CMS to accredit HME providers have kicked their expansion plans into high gear to accommodate the expected onslaught of providers seeking the stamp of approval.

At HQAA, for example, Executive Director Mary Nicholas will hire at least 30 surveyors and 12 "coaches" in early 2007. Additionally, she doubled her office space to 4,000 square feet in December.

"Even that will only last us a year," she said. "We're already looking at tripling our space."

In early November, CMS released the names of 11 organizations that have secured the tall task of accrediting providers who want to participate in national competitive bidding in 2007

There are as many as 150,000 Part B providers unaccredited nationwide. Even though that number includes everything from pharmacies to hand surgeons, Nicholas estimated that two out of every three HME providers she meets aren't accredited.

The Compliance Team also plans to boost its office space--from 1,500 to 4,500 square feet--and its roster of surveyors, said President Sandra Canally.

"We have 16 surveyors right now, and we have half a dozen more waiting in the wings," she said. "Our plan is to have someone in place specifically for each MSA."

Even before CMS's announcement, JCAHO had hired about a dozen additional surveyors, largely due to a 40% increase in initial applications for 2006 vs. 2005. The organization plans to continue hiring surveyors this year, said MaryAnn Popovich, executive director of its homecare accreditation program.

"We've anticipated the increases, but we have an enhanced business plan in place to accommodate any surge in applications," she said.

The agencies eligible to accredit HME providers include the usual suspects: JCAHO, CHAP, ACHC, HQAA and The Compliance Team.

It also includes a few unfamiliar faces, at least to the HME industry, namely the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.