'When one road gets closed, look for the next one'
The competitive bid amounts for Round 1.2 have sent HME providers in areas slated for Round 2 scurrying for advice on how to cut "huge amounts of cost" from their businesses, says consultant Wallace Weeks.
"We had the full knowledge of what the bid rates were from two years ago, but that didn't move anyone into action," said Weeks, president of The Weeks Group. "When this 32% came around, though, I think maybe it was a wake-up call."
Weeks' advice is to "invest in technology to automate as many things as can be automated."
Here's where providers can make the least investment and get the quickest return, Weeks says: marketing.
"Specifically, they need to use social networking, e-mail promotions, e-newsletters, blogs and good differentiation and branding strategies and tactics," he said.
Other good opportunities exist, Weeks says, in automating the process of recurring orders, including refills, and automating purchasing and accounts payable.
"In general, we all take the easiest route to get from point A to point B," he said. "When one road gets closed, then we look for the next one."
Bask in attention
With the budgets of HME providers so tight, associations are doubling their efforts to lure them to their events, says consultant Elizabeth Mansfield.
"It used to be that you'd put meeting info out there and people would sign up and come," said Mansfield, president of Outsource Marketing Solutions. "Now you have to really market to them."
Mansfield is working with several orthotist and prosthetist associations to help them market their events. She's doing things like sending out e-mail newsletters and updating Facebook pages, and she's reworking programs to improve networking opportunities. After the events take place, she's making sure attendees return to follow-up surveys already in their e-mail inboxes.
Providers can only benefit from this kind of attention, Mansfield says.
"There's a lot more accountability now, in terms of what they provide at these events," she said.
When it comes to getting doctors to fill out paperwork correctly, HME providers need to remember to stick together, says consultant Roberta Domos.
"Physicians chart to remind themselves of the care they're providing to the patient and the plan that they have for them," said Domos, owner of Domos HME Consulting Group. "They don't chart to justify their medical decisions. So getting them to chart correctly is difficult. Additionally, you know there's always going to be some provider out there who doesn't know the requirements or who is willing to take a chance and accepts less-than-good documentation. As long as that's happening, that's where doctors will prefer to send their referrals, because it means less work for them."