Question & Answer

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Case manager talks turkey about HME
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Mindy Owen has more than 25 years experience as a registered nurse and case manager. She has worked as a case manager for hospitals and insurers. She currently runs her own consulting company, Phoenix HealthCare Associates, which specializes in, among other things, case management and disease management. Owen, who is scheduled to speak at Medtrade, is part of the Academy of Certified Case Managers’ advisory board. The academy has scheduled its eastern regional conference at the Georgia World Congress Center in conjunction with Medtrade 2003. HME News caught up with Owen in late July and chatted with her about the important relationship between case managers and home medical equipment dealers.

HME News: How do you decide whether or not to refer a patient to a home medical equipment company that is new to you?

Mindy Owen: I’m looking for someone the patient and family can rely on for service and information and education around that equipment.The equipment needs to be reliable and durable. It needs all the bells and whistles the patient needs. But the key is building that relationship and having that HME provider be a resource for that family. As a case manager, what I don’t want is a phone call at 10 or 11 at night from a family that is panicked because they can’t get service.

HME: How should an HME market itself to a case manager?

MO: It is not by bringing in doughnuts. It’s a service issue. Do they have a 1-800 number I can call and get someone knowledgeable on the other end? Are they returning phone calls in a reasonable period of time? Or maybe they know there is a piece of equipment that is better and at a lower cost and they are willing to share that information with me. That goes a long way. It’s a convenience issue.

HME: You mentioned that you want an HME provider to be a resource to you. What do you mean by that?

MO: Beyond the obvious service issues, it’s the education that an HME provider gives to me and to my staff. For example, I don’t need to know how to build a wheelchair, but I do want to know what kind of questions I should be asking a provider who will be customizing a chair. Or, are there certain things I should be asking about respiratory equipment that’s going in to a patient’s home? Is there an assessment tool - a questionnaire - you can give me that will help with this?

HME: Do you think providers have a good understanding of what case managers want from a medical equipment company?

MO: I’m not sure sure they do. I think there has been a disconnect between case managers and HMEs for a long time. I think the HME has looked at the case manager as someone who just wants the lowest price. I don’t believe that is true in most cases. I also think case managers have to take some responsibility. They haven’t shared with HME providers how they are working particular cases and how they can best work together.

HME: How do you fix that communication breakdown?

MO: I think there is work we need to do to understand what the HME provider can bring to the table. The HME provider needs to be able to state to a case manager: ‘I can bring you this quality of service. I can bring you these assessment tools. I can bring you this expertise.’ The case manager needs to tell the HME provider that these are the goals for this case, and here’s how we can best work together to accomplish those goals.