Provider Strategy

Sleep Therapy's Secret Weapon

How sleep providers can use data to improve therapeutic outcomes and operational excellence.

While we can all appreciate the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, we know there are millions of people who need assistance with catching their zzzs. Sleep apnea affects approximately 18 million Americans, and as a result, many HMEs have expanded their businesses to include sleep therapy.

Sleep therapy is a growing but highly competitive and compliance-driven market; as such, a steadfast focus on utilizing data to provide an exceptional referral partner and patient experience, plus technology to streamline operations are the keys to a successful business. Making data the heart of your operation helps drive business decisions that lead to a higher rate of compliance and repeat referrals and customers. The amount, breadth, and utilization of data is reliant on what tools a sleep therapy practice has in place for analysis. Timely, accurate data is readily available only for the progressive practices who make an investment in innovative technology.

With healthcare moving to an outcomes-based reimbursement model, it’s more important than ever that sleep therapy practices utilize technology to improve patient care, keep accurate patient records, and regularly share outcomes with physicians to limit readmissions and increase reimbursements.

A wonderful case study of this in action is Cape Medical Supply in Sandwich, Mass., headed by President and CEO Gary Sheehan. Cape Medical is considered a great innovator in the sleep therapy market, with data and a desire to deliver maximum patient and referral source satisfaction at the core of everything that they do. Cape Medical has realized tremendous patient and revenue growth in their sleep practice by focusing their efforts on four process phases of CPAP therapy execution:

  1. Intake
  2. Setup
  3. Compliance
  4. Replenishment

Let’s look at those steps in more detail:

Intake

This is likely the biggest pain point for any sleep therapy provider, with increasing prior authorizations and incomplete referrals making the intake time longer. Intake is anything that happens from the time you receive the initial referral to the time the patient is setup. The opportunity here is to make efforts to speed up the intake process, and communicate with referral sources and patients to set realistic expectations. Measuring KPIs, such as the percentage of referrals that are complete, helps set that expectation, and helps your team be ready to follow up immediately when orders are received.

Setup

This phase is all about how comfortable the patient is with the device and equipment, and how educated they are to ensure they will be become compliant, and eventually be a repeat customer. Implementing strong educational materials and interactions between clinicians and the patient is very important during setup, just as much as the proper mask fit. Measuring compliance and guarantee rates on a per mask basis helps your sleep therapy practice initiate conversations with referral sources to support or counteract requests for a specific mask, positioning your business as an expert, leading to higher compliance rates, and ultimately a better relationship with referral sources and patients.

Compliance

Compliance is the ultimate goal of any sleep therapy practice. If a patient is compliant, that’s an extra patient who will be purchasing product from you in the future. An important KPI in this phase is throughput. Having dedicated staff to help drive compliance rates is important as this provides a much better patient experience, in addition to securing revenue for the business. Providing the proper education and touches in the setup phase should lend itself to higher compliance rates, and mitigate heavy call volumes.

Replenishment

This phase should focus on making it easy for the patient to reorder. Letting the patient reorder in the way they want to, such as being able to call-in, visit a brick-and-mortar store, or order online via a portal ensures the patient is happy. Revenue per patient is a telling KPI in the replenishment phase.

Automation

Finding ways to automate processes and retrieve accurate data are important drivers for operational excellence and exceptional customer experience. Technology is a key factor here, and Cape Medical is using technology as a platform for their data and business decisions, and they consider it a key investment in their success. Some of the benefits to using technology are as follows:

  • Streamline operations — electronic input of necessary patient information and compliance data reduces human error and ensures compliance, in addition to making the lives of staff easier so they can focus on patients.
  • Eliminate human touches — cutting down on the number of staff members that work on each order saves the practice time and money, and facilitates a better referral and patient experience.
  • Improve conversation rates, grow margins and increase revenue — utilizing technology that automatically mines your patient data helps communicate which patients are eligible supplies at a specific time, which helps identify revenue generating opportunities, and everyone wins.
  • Drive improvements with business metrics — easily see how the business is performing with customizable reporting, and make adjustments as needed.
  • Integration with manufacturers — a solution that integrates with top manufacturers allows your practice to better track and manage therapy compliance of sleep-disordered patients.

For a more in-depth look into how a successful sleep therapy practice operates, make sure to watch and listen to the free archive of the HME Business’ webinar entitled, “Accelerate Your Sleep Therapy Practice”, in which Cape Medical Supply’s Sheehan delved deeplyinto the business and care specifics of his practice’s key performance indicators, philosophies and more.

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Jana Macon is a vice president at HME and post acute software company Brightree LLC, where she is responsible for sales, account management and partner programs, in addition to overall performance of the business. Macon has 23 years’ experience in directing and managing the operational aspects of software development, and customer satisfaction though product implementation, and on-going support.

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