QS/1 calls, so providers don’t have to

Thursday, July 31, 2008

SPARTANBURG, S.C.--Interactive Voice Response (IVR), the automated phone system that ushered Americans through 43 billion minutes of questions and answers in 2007, has taken another tentative step into the HME industry with the roll-out of a new program by QS/1.

The new QS/1 system for HMEs automates calls out to patients who need regular refills of medical supplies, including wound care, diabetic, CPAP, enteral, injectionals, urologicals, ostomy and incontinence. The system reminds patients that supplies can be reordered; it allows patients to reorder supplies; and it checks on usage compliance for capped rental items.

“From a supply standpoint, it’s been my experience that HMEs don’t manage their resupply business,” said Chris Kinard, an HME market analyst at QS/1. “They just hope patients will call in or they have a full-time employee running reports and calling people, reminding them to get their items supplied.”

That, say IVR boosters, is costly and inefficient from a revenue generation standpoint.

At present, few companies have identified IVR as a boon for the HME supply business. Nine out of 10 Americans are not satisfied by the experience of dealing with an IVR, according to one study.

QS/1 guesses that those rates of dissatisfaction may stem from calls placed by people who are looking for support.

“Your cable TV, your cell-everyone hates that,” said Charles Garner, a marketing analyst at QS/1. “Ours is from a service standpoint.”

That ingrained dissatisfaction doesn’t surprise John Durkee, vice president of North American sales for Pittsburgh-based MedSage Technologies, who says one out of 10 satisfied IVR customers is pretty good.

MedSage implemented an IVR system when it launched operations for respiratory med providers in 2003. It has since expanded the system to help providers manage other patients with chronic diseases.

Today, MedSage’s system can pump out 30,000 calls per hour. One of every three calls lands on an answering machine or in voice mail. That lack of contact may be discouraging, but Durkee sees a bright side.

“It takes about 80 seconds to dial that number, to leave a message and reschedule the call manually,” he said. “It is far more efficient to have a respiratory therapist spend that time with a patient.”

Similarly, QS/1 is attuned to the efficiencies of not interacting with live voices.

“From talking to people, we know that with elderly people, it will take 5, 10 and 15 minutes to get them off the phone,” said Jay Williams, QS/1’s national sales manager for HME. “In the automated system, it doesn’t take 15 minutes to take a call.”

Williams believes that 25% of HME companies are candidates for the IVR-based systems.
The QS/1 system costs $4,000 for the software and $750 for cards that can route calls from four phone lines. There is no per transaction fee for the service.