The Big 10
- By David Kopf
- Jan 01, 2012
Undeniably, software has become an essential asset for well-managed HME businesses. There’s simply no room for home grown systems using excel and Quickbooks as a means for running an efficient operation. Because Medicare has been cut so deeply, HME providers have to come up with a whole new world of cost savings.
No tool helps providers find those efficiencies better than their HME software. HME software has evolved into a strategic asset that can help providers not only find those efficiencies, but also help them explore and leverage new revenue opportunities and put the sorts of processes in place that protect them from the serious and very real threat of audits. That is why HME software is on the Big 10 for 2012.
Starting with audits, providers need some serious help in terms of ensuring they have the right documentation procedures in place, and the means to quickly retrieve that documentation as needed. Providers need to implement their own internal processes to assess claims and ensure proper physician and referral partner documentation before they are processed to see if they will pass muster. However, the key is that software can automate these processes for them. Now the critical issue of obtaining the right documentation in the right format for claims is not left to a human process, but is rather an automated workfl ow. A claim or order simply can’t be processed or progress to the next step in the chain, until it the software system lets it.
Moreover, software also lets providers assess their documentation performance through reporting tools. Now they can see how quickly they are ensuring that claims are properly buttoned-up and audit proof, or identify a referral partner that repeatedly takes too long to supply the correct documentation.
Similarly, document imaging and management tools are also important in this regard as they let staff quickly store, file, share and retrieve any important documents related to a specific claim or patient. This can be especially important in the case of post-payment reviews, where providers need to very promptly supply past documentation to auditors.
And, of course, efficiency is a key benefit — and need — from software systems in 2012. There are multiple key areas of HME Business management that benefit from HME software.
Of course, one of the central ways software systems do that is through billing and claims management. The more efficient your claims processing, the quicker money comes back to your bottom line. Providers that still try to handle billing manually, typically experience Days Sales Outstanding (DSOs) as long as 100 days or even longer. Software systems can slash that by half or more. Some providers can enjoy DSOs of as few 25 days. Software systems accomplish this by automating every aspect of the billing process to drive as much time out of it as possible.
At the strategic level, software systems give HME management a level of command and control previously unknown. Now providers can monitor special “executive dashboards” that give HME business owners an executive view that shows how their businesses are performing in real time using key metrics they define or that come with the software. With reporting tools they can move beyond that view into much more detailed data to see how and why certain aspect of their business might be performing poorly or beyond expectations. Then they can use that data for developing and implementing new business plans and processes.
At the operational level, a key provider agenda item is to maintain overhead and two ways software systems can benefit HMEs is through inventory management and delivery management. Both represent huge overhead. The money providers have tied up in inventory can be huge, and the process of managing it is costly, as well. The inventory management features many HME software systems offer can introduce cost-cutting efficiencies such as barcoding into warehouse operations. Also, to keep the inventory’s financial footprint low, software systems can modeling supply needs to ensure providers keep the right amount of DME stocked, and can automate re-ordering to ensure it never gets depleted.
Delivery management is similarly expense. Keeping trucks rolling with maximum efficiency through mileage management and route planning is critical, and software helps providers optimize the entire operation, while also ensuring there is adequate cover to support emergency patient calls in a quick, responsive fashion. If providers also incorporate GPS vehicle tracking and management into the operation they can even start tracking vehicle and driver efficiency in real time.
When those delivery staff and techs are in the field, providers can extend their software efficiencies even further. Recognizing the fact that providers need to push their technology gains beyond the confines of the desktop, HME software companies are starting to develop solutions for handheld devices that delivery drivers and other staff can take into the field with them to complete tasks such as gathering signatures, updating patient records, and even updating truck inventory in the central inventory system.
And, as providers move toward cash sales, software systems are also making an impact. Point of sales cash register systems can be tied to the back office to update inventory as items are purchased, as well as track patient buying habits, and accommodate special promotions and pricing for certain retail items.
Where software used to be a tool for the larger or up-and-coming software providers, it has grown to be a central business tool for all providers in 2012. There are too many challenges for providers not to determine the ways in which they can run their businesses as efficiently and profitably as possible.
This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of HME Business.
David Kopf is the Editor of HME Business.