Providers share ideas

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

BOSTON - Have you ever thought of expanding your cash business by filling oxygen tanks for fire departments and ambulance services? Or how about using GPS systems to track not just your driver techs but also your salespeople? Or why not use specialty software to measure the productivity of your office staff?
These are just a few of the ideas that nearly 200 providers shared during the HME Business Summit in Boston Sept. 9-11, an annual conference hosted by HME News. During three brainstorming sessions, providers shared ideas on how to increase revenues and decrease expenses. Here's a little of what they said.
Boosting revenue
* Don't let salespeople bring in business that's unprofitable or barely breaks even. Use commissions to incentivize them to bring in higher-margin business. Pay little or nothing for products and payers that don't generate sufficient margins. Pay more for Medicare oxygen patients, CPAP set-ups and other profitable payers and products.
* If you structure the contract correctly, there's no need to run from hospice business. Develop strict product formularies and charge a fee for extra deliveries and after-hour deliveries.
* A few areas where providers have developed significant new lines of business: pressure support ventilation; servo-ventilation; portable oxygen concentrators; filling oxygen tanks for fire departments and ambulance services (the profit margin is $8 to $10 a cylinder); and resupplying CPAP patients with masks and tubing.
* The majority of attendees have branched into the sleep market, a large and growing segment.
* Expand beyond your geographic area through acquisitions. Consolidate duplicate departments like accounting. The same holds true for opening new branches. Make one branch the central business location that handles front-end duties; the other locations distribution centers.
Reducing expenses
* Use technology to do more with existing staff or to reduce full-time employees. GPS systems help route drivers more efficiently; they also ensure that salespeople aren't making a bunch of calls in the morning and spending the afternoon on the golf course.
* Use programs or systems that allow you to track your denial rates, indentify problems and, ultimately, submit cleaner claims.
* Collect patient co-pays and deductibles up front.
* Outsource pick-ups, billing and collections, and liquid oxygen deliveries.
* Use EDI (electronic data interface) for purchasing.
* Some providers reported using the U.S. Postal service to deliver smaller, non-technical items.