'You are still persevering'

Thursday, June 9, 2011

WATERLOO, Iowa – For HME providers who feel as though every workday is a battle, the keynote speaker at The VGM Group's Heartland Conference last week put things into perspective.

"In Mogadishu, if you get up in the morning, call it a win in pencil, because you've still got the rest of the day (to get through)," Sgt. Matthew Eversmann told attendees.

Eversmann received a Bronze Star for his service in Somalia, where he was involved in the 18-hour Battle of Mogadishu. That experience was the basis for the movie "Black Hawk Down."

While the everyday battles fought by HME providers aren't quite so dramatic, they are challenging, he acknowledged.

"You provide services to so many people, with all these challenges, and you are still persevering," said Eversmann.

This year marked the 10th anniversary of the Heartland Conference. The event, held June 6 to 9, drew more than 1,000 participants. A few highlights from the educational sessions:

Talk about the patient

During a "Town Hall Meeting," Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, told providers they need to push patients to the center of the debate if lawmakers are to understand why Medicare's competitive bidding program should be repealed.

"You are the experts, make your case," he said. "Frame it in way so that it's about their constituents. It's good to reduce spending in Washington, but let's do it in a way that doesn’t hurt people."

Speak up about documentation

Providers are living in an "audit world" right now, and it's no longer good enough to show that the physician says a patient needs equipment. What Medicare wants to see is documented proof of continued need and use of equipment, said speaker James Herren of James Herren Consulting Services, during his session, "Understanding Medical Management for DME Audits.”

"Medicare has swung toward documentation," said Herren. "If it isn't documented, it isn't necessary. That's where medical management comes in. The doctor's notes determine everything."

It's up to providers to make sure those notes are complete—and to ask for them.

"There's no reason not to ask for that documentation," he said. "It's your equipment and you have a right to ask to make sure you will be paid. Make it part of your business model."

Be tech-savvy

Technology also needs to be part of providers' business models. New federal regulations are shifting the healthcare industry, as a whole, toward adoption of electronic health care records, and policy and reimbursement changes are pushing HME providers to become more efficient, said speaker Chris Watson, chief marketing officer for Brightree, during her session "Prospering in Post-Reform World: Is Your Business Ready?"

"Have you talked to referral sources about technology?" she asked. "They are getting pressure to adopt technology to provide better quality care at a lower cost."

Don't assume your patients aren't using technology, either, said Watson.

"Look at the way they are interacting with their families," she said. "They are using e-mails and texting because that's how they communicate with their children and grandchildren."