Hey, Jethro, what’s this MCO thingy?

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

MELBOURNE, Fla. - Industry consultant Wallace Weeks got an eye-opener recently when he encountered what appear to him to be some of the least professional HMEs in the business.
Wallace Weeks

On a project for a client who wanted information on managed care business in select markets, Weeks retrieved 23,000 HME provider numbers from the National Supplier Clearinghouse. Of those, The Weeks Group phoned about 100.

“I found the most unsophisticated, poorly represented businesses I have ever run across - owners who didn’t seem to have a clue about what was going on in the industry,” Weeks said. “It caught me totally off guard. It made me realize why the government may hold some of the (negative) opinions about the industry that it does.”

Weeks encountered what sounds like the Beverly Hillbillies of HME. Some he talked to didn’t recognize the abbreviation MCO or know the payers in their communities. Some answered the phone with babies crying or dogs barking in the background. Answering machines lacked the professionalism normally associated with a serious business.

“It was more akin to what you would find in a relaxed way on your personal telephone, which indicates they are either very small or not concerned about the image they present,” Weeks said. “It was, ‘Hi, this is Bobby’s Home Health. Leave a number and we’ll call you back’ - and I loved this - ‘at our earliest convenience.’ It was like your convenience doesn’t matter. I do business for my convenience. That was a hallmark for me.”

Weeks called the encounters “an interesting revelation.” He suspects that consultants, providers and others who populate events like Medtrade and belong to industry associations seldom run into this level of stunning unsophistication. The DMERCs and CMS, however, presumably have, he said.

It’s another reason why the industry needs to support accreditation and other measures that raise the professional bar, he said.

“I found people who aren’t helping us,” Weeks said. “They may be perfectly honest people and have the highest moral standards we’ve seen. But as far as being professionals and representing their business well, they don’t.”