There are things you can control

Friday, January 24, 2014

Providers in the home medical equipment industry often lament the burdensome audit scrutiny we endure from CMS and third-party payers. While these complaints are more than legitimate, I find it interesting how little control we exercise over the aspects of our business that we do control. I work closely with hospital-owned HME companies, and one of the biggest errors I routinely encounter is easily avoided by simply verifying information. Far too often, hospital-owned HME companies will accept as “100% accurate” information taken from either the hospital staff or the hospital’s electronic medical record (EMR) at intake. When this information is incorrect and not caught, it creates a chain reaction of errors that add up greatly over time.

For instance, when a patient is admitted into the hospital, it usually is a chaotic event and, unfortunately, oftentimes that chaos breeds errors. These errors then make their way to the other parts of the hospital’s operation, including the HME component. Something as simple as a misspelled street name or failure to verify a current phone number creates problems for a delivery tech who may go across town (or a county) only to find that the address is wrong. From there, the delivery tech must make phone calls back to the office and/or the patient to fix the mistake. And when every dollar counts, this problem easily adds up. It delays other deliveries, it ties up office staff that must verify the incorrect information, and will likely create a negative impression of the company in the eyes of the patient.

All of this can be avoided by doing something that is, quite honestly, a necessary part of customer service—ask! Ask the patient or designee to verify the information received. Is the patient’s name spelled correctly? Is it Sr. or Jr.? Does the mail go to the patient or to a relative? Could you please verify your home mailing address for me? These questions need to be asked each time. I know we want to believe the information received from a trusted partner is correct, but it is my experience that it is one of the easiest places to make a mistake.

I get asked sometimes: How big of an issue is this really? While I don’t have data to provide, I can say that it is enough of an issue that it is mentioned to me by hospital executives as a consistent area of concern. Hospitals (like the rest of us) are continually looking for ways to save money. When I talk to the administrators I usually hear a lot about “waste.” When pressed about waste, they bring up delays in deliveries, cost of gas, claim denials, etc. In this era of diminishing returns, the unprofitable departments stand out. Do not let areas that you can control negatively impact your cash flow.

As an industry, we must continue the fight to lessen the burden of uncontrolled audits, but we can’t ignore the things we can control.

Joel Segar is the owner of Allied Management Solutions. He can be reached at 423-463-0160 or