Get a good night's sleep: Hop aboard the e-CMN train

Thursday, January 31, 2002

My involvement with electronic CMNs began in 2000. Since that time, I have talked to countless people regarding this technology. From day one, almost always the first question I'm asked is, "How much do you think you can save by using electronic CMNs?" My answer in the early days of this adventure was always, "I don't know."

When HME News asked me to write a commentary on electronic CMNs one suggestion was that I comment on the cost savings of using this technology, so I had to come up with a different answer to the question, and I will share it with you now:

"While I am confident that the use of electronic CMNs will in many ways reduce our cost of processing said documentation, I do not knowbut I'll sleep better."

Does that answer the question? Look, someday next to "no-brainer" at, it will read, "Example: Whether or not to use electronic CMN technology whenever possible."

Here's what it takes to make electronic CMNs a successful and sustained part of how each of us does business:

A)Adoption by the medical community;

B) A compliant e- CMN product;

C)Continued CMS participation in software design; and

D) HME software vendors that do what they should: proactively support this new technology.

Physician Adoption

I would never be so delusional as to think that anything close to 100% participation from physicians is realistic. In fact, I don't really like to count physicians; instead, I count paper.

If, in two years from initial deployment, we can process 60%-70% of our CMNs electronically we will have met expectations. Whether you count physicians or paper, I believe to attain and sustain an acceptable level of usage from the medical community, you will have to provide a technology that:

A) Is easy to set up on the physician's side;

B) Is intuitive and simple to use;

C) Offers immediate access to online reference databases; and

D) Is free of clutter.

Physicians and their staff will only embrace this technology if it helps them free time for patient contact. At the point where completing electronic CMNs becomes a non-stop barrage of unwanted advertisements, or is aggravatingly complex, we will have lost the physician.

Compliance and CMS

By utilizing an architecture that meets or exceeds all security, HIPAA, and Medicare guidelines, we'll all sleep better. In the development of electronic CMN technology, there must be consistent dialogue, idea sharing and complete disclosure between the software vendors and CMS.

To state the obvious, without the continued support of CMS, this victory for the HME industry is short lived. Software vendors looking to enter the electronic CMN market, as well as suppliers, should keep in mind the old saying, "You only have one chance to make a first impression." Develop your software/reputation cautiously.

One thing that has me puzzled is that I don't hear much support from HME software vendors on the issue of electronic CMNs. I have heard some software vendors express concern that overall doctor acceptance of the technology may be low. If you don't help your customers' employ the technology, how will we ever know?

Until software vendors become proactive by doing what they can to integrate this technology in as seamless a fashion as possible, they are doing their customers a disservice. Let your customers know that no matter what happens in the world of electronic CMN software vendors that you will be ready to supply as seamless an integration path as possible. Before you worry about doctor acceptance, please make the technology available and affordable for your customers to use if they choose.

CMS and the DMERCs are moving ahead with electronic CMNs Shoudn't we?

Randi Neal is director of field operating systems for American HomePatient. HME