Providers beware: Is your consultant qualified?
WASHINGTON - Providers may not be jumping on the accreditation bandwagon just yet, but the number of consultants hanging out their shingle is on the rise. But are they qualified?
"It's a great growth opportunity, but when somebody that could barely even spell the word six months ago has now become a consultant, it sort of puts a bad taste in my mouth," said Bob Weir, a surveyor for ACHC. "Make sure the person you're hiring knows what they're doing."
Medicare ultimately expects all HME providers to become accredited, beginning with those who wish to participate in national competitive bidding, slated to kick off later this year in 10 cities.
Ted Jones, of Burbank, Calif.-based consulting firm IB Network, said he has worked with providers who used other consultants and then did not pass or received conditional accreditation.
"It's better to get it right the first time," said Jones. "The process for explaining why they are not compliant and how they are going to comply is lengthy."
Industry consultant Jack Evans, president of Malibu, Calif.-based Global Media, is concerned that providers looking to save money will discover the hard way that there is no such thing as "accreditation lite."
"You're either accredited or not accredited," said Evans. "Providers, because these companies might be cheaper, are looking at the short-term savings vs. the long-term benefits."
Providers should check with Medicare's 10 deemed accrediting agencies to see what consultants they have worked with, said Tim Safley, HME clinical adviser for ACHC.
"The ones that we haven't heard of, we don't know what makes them qualified to be consultants so we don't necessarily add or delete them from our list of consultants," said Safley. "I've heard people say they are a consultant when they've worked maybe a year in the industry and think they can read a policy and put it together but that is not reality."
Ultimately, it is still up to providers to do the work for accreditation.
"If the consultant came in for a day or two and told them what they needed to do but they did nothing on it then it's not the consultant's fault," he said.