Hello JCAHO, CHAP and ACHC. We're HQAA

Sunday, June 5, 2005

WATERLOO, Iowa - A new accrediting body hung its shingle at the VGM Group's Heartland Conference last week, billing itself as a cheaper, paperless alternative to the industry's current stalwarts.

VGM has launched the Healthcare Quality Association on Accreditation with a $500,000 investment, though the new group will be run as a non-profit entity to answer the Medicare Modernization Act's call for all HME suppliers to be accredited.

While many in the industry welcomed an accreditation requirement for suppliers, as many did not, fearing the sometimes daunting expense of accreditation and the hassles of preparation.

VGM, touting the new body's emphasis on paperless systems, calls the introduction of HQAA a "paradigm shift."

"The cost of this accreditation is going to be significantly less expensive than what's out there," said VGM Management President Jim Walsh.

While HQAA's rivals may not welcome pricing pressures, JCAHO, CHAP and ACHC will not begrudge another entity in the marketplace. The currently active accrediting bodies could never handle all the work thrown up by the MMA, said ACHC President Tom Cesar.

The industry's largest accrediting body, JCAHO, said on Friday that it currently accredits 1,400 home medical equipment supply companies, representing 4,300 locations. Two years ago, ACHC said it had accredited 150-200 HME supplier locations. At the same time, CHAP claimed 850 HME supplier locations, including all of Lincare's branches.

Meanwhile, the National Supplier Clearinghouse has granted supplier numbers to 23,000 locations that identify themselves as home medical equipment suppliers and 50,000 locations that identify as pharmacies.
Cumulatively, JCAHO, CHAP and ACHC are now accrediting fewer than 25% of the suppliers who identify as HMEs, never mind the significant numbers of pharmacies that provide durable medical equipment.

HQAA plans to distinguish itself with technology and coaches. The technology will let relevant parties, such as CMS or other payors, check out a supplier's proof of insurance and validation of a supplier number on line.

Via e-mail, HQAA will coach suppliers as they prepare for their survey.
Although VGM is the principal investor in the initiative, HQAA is a completely separate organization, said VGM. Its offices will be housed in a separate building downtown. Its executive director, Mary Nicholas, will report to an independent board, as yet unnamed.