Compliance Automation

Virtual Officer 'Polices' Compliance

As regulations continue to tighten the grip on the Home Medical Equipment industry, providers are looking for tools to stay compliant.

As regulations continue to tighten the grip on the Home Medical Equipment industry, providers are looking for help to stay compliant.

Tasks. Events. Rules and regulations. In an industry inundated by layers of procedure, licensure and deadlines, how do HME providers keep it all in check?

Enter Virtual Compliance Officer (VCO), a company founded in 2009 by Alan Cross, president, MHA, RRT, Ward Cook, CEO, and Joan Cross, AA, co-owner. VCO offers an Internet-based HME compliance program of the same name, which provides HME companies with virtual human resources and compliance support.

The VCO program monitors clients’ compliance requirements with the applicable laws, rules and regulations as they apply to the medical equipment industry and then sends clients the necessary information in the required time frame. This includes regulations governing federal and state healthcare programs, fraud and abuse matters, ethics, human resources issues involving hiring and managing employees, privacy and security requirements, and corporate governance.

In addition the program emphasizes accreditation requirements as they are applied to the individual companies and their choice of accreditation agencies.

Why create a virtual compliance officer for the HME industry? As an accreditation surveyor and an HME provider for over 25 years, Alan Cross experienced firsthand what companies missed or failed to do during their accreditation surveys.

“When you survey a company, the last part is an exit conference,” Cross says. “This is where you detail its strengths and weaknesses. A particular exit conference was going well. An absentee owner and the office manager were present when I pointed out a problem. It was not a major problem but the owner snapped at the office manager that this was not done. The manager responded, ‘I can’t keep track of everything.’ And this was the spark plug that fired the VCO engine.”

Unlike other industries, such as finance, banking, insurance and healthcare, which all employ compliance officers and, often, full compliance teams, HME has not adopted this practice.

“HME is one of the most heavily regulated industries, second only to finance, and the ability to stay compliant to our accreditation agencies is paramount,” says Cross. “VCO is designed for the HME industry to address the needs for all compliance issues and can be customized to meet the individual needs of specific companies.

VCO spans the needs of small companies and large companies and is priced to be attractive, regardless of size.”

GPS for Compliance Support

VCO functions via a website that requires an account, user name and password. Once logged in, a client views the VCO Client Menu, which consists of links to start building your compliance program. Although there are places during the information-inputting stage to individualize what VCO tracks, in a nutshell, VCO is designed to help companies:

  • Implement fire drills
  • Track TB testing
  • Follow-up on employee evaluations
  • Monitor company and personnel licensure expiration dates
  • Record in-service education
  • Provide QA reminders
  • Assist with contract review
  • Provide an in-depth reference library

VCO offers an easy-to-use interface that makes inputting and tracking your accreditation tasks (which the system calls events) easy and convenient. An at-a-glance VCO company dashboard is a powerful to-do list that displays when events are due, current or past due; how many days are remaining to finish the task; and whether a task requires a response. Color-coded buttons easily display an event’s status for quick accounting. The dashboard is divided into two sections: company events and employee events.

Once a task is completed, it can be conveniently found under the company report manager link. To get the detailed information about a completed task that you inputted along the way, click view report.

Julie M. Johnson, chief operating officer of Detroit Oxygen & Medical Equipment, has been evaluating the VCO for over a month.

“The reason for our evaluation was to utilize this program to become more efficient in our organization and to combine the various resources that we currently use in to one central processing system,” Johnson says. “I think that this is a great resource for those organizations that may not have the resources to monitor compliance on a regular basis. This tool will assist you in staying in compliance with your accrediting body. The beauty of this software gives you the peace of mind to ensure that you stay in compliance.”

Johnson said that she likes how the Dashboard provides data that keeps her abreast of the activities of compliance within the organization. She also feels the portal is an excellent reference source that provides immediate access to the latest changes in provider standards and state regulations.

As a virtual compliance system, VCO relies on accurate and consistent input of company data. So as long as you’re committed to feeding the VCO, you can reap the benefits of a system that sorts inputted data and triggers emails to various employees for action. From there, data collected from the company is placed in the VCO computer database. Those items requiring responses are followed-up upon by the system and records those responses for accreditation purposes. Reminder emails are sent when accreditation issues go unresolved or when responses are not received. There is also a section for important dates, such as licensure renewals. Once the due date is inputted, a reminder email will be generated 90 days prior to the due date.

The human resources portion of VCO allows you to set-up and track important employee events such as performance evaluations, health testing, driver and professional licenses, and CPR certification. The system has the ability to be tailored to meet some of your company’s specific needs, and but for HR purposes it focuses on:

  • Safety Program Reminders
  • Maintaining Personnel Files
  • Identifying Quality Improvement Audit Potential
  • Addressing Accreditation Standards
  • Testing Fire Drills and Emergency Plans
  • Employee Orientation and Competency Testing
  • Management Reporting and Workplace Programming

The Portal link, located on the Client menu list, is a repository for quick access to important information about the HME industry. Here you will find state abuse hotlines, forms and email samples, dictionaries, regulations and payer guidelines, safety programs, state laws, trade publications and the VCO operations manual.

How Much Does it Cost?

VCO charges using the following scale:

  • 1 to 12 employees costs $159 per month.
  • 13 to 18 employees costs $159 per month, plus $8.50 per employee/per month.
  • 19 to 36 employees costs $159 per month, plus $7.50 per employee/per month.
  • 37 to 49 employees costs $159 per month, plus $7 per employee/per month.
  • 50-plus employees, call for special pricing.

So what does the future hold for VCO? Cross says they are constantly working on the next version of the software, and hope to launch parallels to include pharmacy, hospice and home health. He also wants to add pop-up video screens that will alert company managers to fire drills and full screen pop-ups that will display the dashboard, allowing the office manger to see whatever is due or past due when signing on.

As of press time, VCO does not charge a set-up fee and offers a 30-day money back guarantee. To find out more about VCO, visit www.hmecompliance.com or call (813) 837-2773, ext. 121.

Virtual Compliance Office Client DashboardThe at-a-glance dashboard is a to-do list that displays when company and employee events are due, current or past due; how many days are remaining to finish the task; and whether a task requires a response.

Virtual Compliance Office Client PortalThe Portal link provides a quick-access repository of important homecare information and resources such as state abuse hotlines, forms and email samples, dictionaries, regulations and payer guidelines, safety programs, state laws, and trade publications, as well as the VCO operations manual.

This article originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of HME Business.

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