Accreditation Update: A Look Back

If you aren't already well on your way toward preparing your Medicare bids for the July 13 national competitive bidding deadline and submitting your accreditation applications ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline, well, at least you know what you've got to focus on from here on out.

The national drama featuring DME providers continues. The most recent Washington development is the introduction in the Senate of a companion bill to the House's Tanner-Hobson legislation. Also, the industry's lobbying was complicated on Capitol Hill last week by the Justice Department's announcement of a multi-million dollar settlement with The SCOOTER Store.

This business just can't catch a break. So, herewith, is a break for the medical-equipment community.

Does anyone recall a study about DMEs published in the Fall 2001 Journal of Health Care Financing Review? It's easy for important things to get neglected in the heat of a battle and in the midst of the industry's fear and uncertainty about accreditation and competitive bidding. This study is an excellent example.

JHCFR is CMS's own publication, and this issue appeared before the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act. As CMS was gearing up in earnest to tackle DME-POS spending, four exceptionally well-credentialed researchers asked what seems an eminently reasonable question: how will these initiatives affect beneficiaries' satisfaction? They then headed out into two Florida counties that had large DME-POS-using populations to see what clients think about their suppliers.

And, guess what? They're ecstatic. Very, very happy, thank you very much, with their DMEs. Is delivery rapid, the researchers asked. Yes, very. How about training on the equipment? Very good. Well, are your suppliers dependable? Exceptionally so, thanks for asking. And how about frequency of service? Are you getting the attention you need for your oxygen equipment? Extraordinary.

In other words, clients said they were overwhelmingly happy with the firms that supplied and serviced their medical equipment. This is important, the researchers wrote, because client satisfaction is a reliable "summary measure of access and quality from the unique perspective of users of services."

The study's numbers leave little doubt: 75 percent of respondents using oxygen said they received their equipment the same day they ordered it. More than 80 percent said their training on the equipment was excellent or very good. Ninety-four percent thought their suppliers very reliable. And, when users complained about something, problems were resolved 92 percent of the time.

In discussing their findings, the researchers wrote that this survey would provide a baseline measure of client satisfaction against which future surveys could be compared following changes such as reimbursement reductions and competitive bidding. They offered this caution, though: "Because the baseline satisfaction levels are already so high, it is almost statistically impossible for the initiatives to cause satisfaction ratings to increase. Thus, if any changes in satisfaction are to be observed, they are likely to be negative."

This article originally appeared in the May 2007 issue of HME Business.

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