Wednesday, July 31, 2002

e-CMNs: Fact or fantasy?

With Bruce Brothis
Q. With all the current confusion regarding e-CMNs, should I start thinking about integrating them into our billing department?

A. For the past nine months, the industry has been buzzing with talk regarding electronic CMNs (e-CMNs). While the Sept. 18, 2001, CMS Transmittal #1773 paves the way for e-CMNs, making them a reality within your billing department is still a little ways off. The faxing of CMNs (allowed per this PM) is currently the fastest and most cost-effective way to both send and receive these documents to/from your physicians. You should keep in mind that if there is suspicion of fraud, only original CMNs with original signatures will stand-up in a DMERC, OIG, BIU or FBI audit. Faxed CMNs should always be followed up with a request for the original to protect you against future overpayments, fines and penalties. Mailed CMNs, while slow in their turnaround, assure you the return of the original. Hand delivered CMNs, while expensive, provide originals and that all important chance to be in the face of a referral source.

The biggest reason for the e-CMN delay has been CMS's inability to decide on a common format and methodology for their storage and retrieval. There are a few companies poised to accommodate this technology once the final specifications are finalized. The e- CMN will be a wonderful collection method for those 70% of physicians with Web access in their offices, but the old tried-and-true methods will still be needed for those who do not. Just like paper CMNs, physician compliance will be the key to success.

Bruce Brothis is v.p. of B&B Online HME Services. Reach him at 800-396-9910.