Start-up 'humanizes' accreditation

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

OAKLAND, Calif. - If Accreditation Helper lives up to its billing, the start-up Internet company will cut the cost of becoming accredited almost in half and make the process a whole lot friendlier.
Company CEO Jack Anderson doesn't see why that won't be the case. He's used the Web strategy to great effect in the office based surgery market, and with CMS now mandating accreditation, the time is right to expand into home medical equipment.
"We've been doing this for six years and know how to do it," he said.
Catherine Clinehens, a former senior vice president for The MED Group, is the company's vice president of accreditation services.
Accreditation Helper, which debuted at Medtrade, will probably run the average HME $2,000 to $5,000 (this includes a procedure manual). The program revolves around "helpers" (experienced HME professionals who, at a minimum, have taken a company through accreditation). Helpers communicate with providers over the Internet, giving them small weekly tasks to complete--along with the moral support and understanding that only someone who has prepared for accreditation can offer, Anderson said. As the provider (or company staff) completes the tasks, they fill out Internet forms that a dedicated helper reviews, making sure the work was completed correctly.
"We call it Web tools with a human touch," Anderson said.
The helpers provide a first tier of support. If they get stuck, a consultant, someone with a higher level of expertise, is called in.
Lisa Bargmann, owner of Homecare Collections Service, called Accreditation Helper an "excellent idea." In fact, she'd considered a similar business but was too busy to pursue it. She met Anderson through an HME client and encouraged him to explore the HME industry. Once CMS declared accreditation mandatory, it became a no-brainer, Anderson said.
The efficiencies of the Internet, Anderson said, allow him to reduce the cost of helping to prepare a provider for accreditation.
"It is inefficient to send a consultant to a site because there is so much down time," he said. "If you can deliver the same services over the Internet, you can get 10 times the productivity out of one consultant. If I had to hire and manage a fleet of people traveling around the country, that would be impossible. But I can have a helper who can manage an account anywhere in the country without leaving home."
In addition to preparing providers for accreditation, Accreditation Helper offers a maintenance program that ensures they stay in compliance and can pass an unannounced survey. That kind of quality assurance plays well with insurers and will pay dividends to providers who embrace it, Anderson said.
"I think you will see that payers will demand high quality from the people they work with," he said. "It won't just be CMS. If you want contracts with Aetna or United, you'll have to be a high-quality provider."