Are you losing track of expensive equipment

Friday, January 24, 2014

By Liz Beaulieu, Editor

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – It was a chance conversation at a coffee shop between two local entrepreneurs that led to the recent launch of HME Recovery.

Mark Saber owns All Med, an HME company based here that services about 8,000 patients through 10 locations in the state. One of his survival strategies has been to invest heavily in non-delivery oxygen units. The problem: When a patient passed away, he often lost track of the expensive equipment.

“Out of 8,000 patients, there were anywhere from 15-30 that I didn’t know passed away each week,” said Saber. “Half the time, the families would raise their hands and say, ‘Come get the stuff,’ but the other times, it would disappear. People don’t think it’s a rental; they think they own it no matter how you explain it to them in the beginning. I’d only find out when my claims started to get denied by Medicare.”

Enter Paul Helmick, a “tech guy” who says he’s been writing software since the seventh grade.

Saber ran into Helmick, a casual friend for several years, in a coffee shop and told him about his problem. The next time Saber saw Helmick there, Helmick told him, with a big grin, “I have this whole thing figured out.”

At the time, Helmick was working on a software system that indexes and aggregates media sources to create large sets of data to mine. What if he took the same approach to newspaper obituaries, funeral home notices, and state, county and federal registries, he asked Saber?

“I thought, here’s an industry that’s struggling with insight,” Helmick said. “What if you could know on a daily or weekly basis? Knowing is half the battle. When you know quickly, you can completely revamp your business.”

Saber and Helmick put the software to work at All Med and got great results. The company runs a tighter ship because it no longer unknowingly bills Medicare for patients that have passed away, and it recovers anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 in equipment each week, they say.

“For the year, we’re looking at $350,000 in equipment that we don’t have to repurchase,” Saber said. “We can take the recovered equipment, clean it up and put it back on the street.”

To use HME Recovery, providers download active patient lists from their existing HME software systems and upload them into HME Recovery. HME Recovery then matches data from the two sources to create a list of patients that have possibly passed away. The provider then checks in with caregivers and or families.

HME Recovery costs 50 cents per patient per month to use, with a minimum charge of $1,000 per month—not a bad deal, Saber and Helmick say, when you’re talking about $2,500 non-delivery oxygen units and $6,000 vents.

“We had one provider who does vents say, ‘We just want to get one back a year,’” Helmick said.

Medicare does have a phone number that providers can call to check a beneficiary’s eligibility, but when you have 8,000 patients, that’s not a realistic option, Saber says.

“Plus, Medicare’s information is always a little behind,” he said.