Smart Talk: Will the eCMN work for you?

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Q. Three years ago, eCMNs came to the forefront as one of the greatest ways to cut costs since sliced bread, but no one is slicing bread, what gives? Is there really as much savings in operations as has been touted?
A. There is much more involved here than just a cost saving opportunity. First, it is important to recognize that new technology almost always takes longer to catch on than its originators expect. Not only do providers need to be sold, but so do the physician referral sources. Further, eCMNs "solve" a problem that does not exist for many providers, who find relatively little difficulty getting CMNs signed. Finally, diminishing face-to-face contact with physician offices is not something HME providers find desirable. It is also important to recognize the fallacy of efficiency being synonymous with cost savings. Too often technology providers offer a product that carries a real, out-of-pocket cost, while its purported benefit is a nebulous reduction in employee time. A marginal reduction in the time required by employees to complete job duties does not, by itself, result in increased profitability or cash flow. Only when this "efficiency" is followed by a reduction in gross wages paid by the organization is there an impact on the bottom line, and that is harder to do than simply buying into the latest technology. In the case of eCMNs, I would suggest that savings for providers are possible over the long term where geographic or demographic factors make collection of a manual signature on the CMN unusually time consuming. But, I do not see reducing the time to collect CMN signatures as one of the top cost savings opportunities for most HME providers.


Mike Mallaro is CFO for the VGM Group. He can be reached at or (319) 235-7100.