A Change That Can Do You Good
Mobile technology, data can help providers succeed in a connected world.
Odds are that you have a smartphone with at least one health-related
app or wearable health monitoring device. You might have even used
it today to check your step count, heart rate or how well you slept. Have you
used one to check if your equipment orders were delivered on time to the right
patients? It’s this type of technology that is helping our industry evolve in
The past year has been about change for HME provider businesses. The
changes have ranged from new legislative regulations around reimbursement
cuts to shrinking profit margins and more mergers. Business models are
changing as the industry evolves, and it’s largely now driven by how we use
technology as a business strategy.
Technology for HME providers is about all areas of a business staying
connected at all times. Let’s look at two technology trends and how they are
changing the way the industry does business.
Shift to Mobile Apps and Healthcare Devices
The percentage of U.S. consumers with at least one health app on their mobile
device doubled from 2013 to 2015 according to PwC’s Health Research Institute’s
annual report. Adoption of health-related smartphone apps is on the rise,
but are there risks? Certainly. There is the threat to data security, and an uncertainty
about working with the devices in the field. You do not want delivery
drivers fumbling around on devices, uncertain of the products they carry or
patient information. Training your workforce can pay big dividends.
Companies are investing in technology, too. In 2016, venture capital
funding for mobile health applications hit a record $1.3 billion, according to
the Mercom Capital Group’s Healthcare IT/Digital Health Funding and M&A
Report and Annual Health IT Funding and M&A Report. Why is so much
money being invested into mobile applications? It’s all about the potential.
Companies see the increasing number of users and they are trying to benefit.
The potential is also there for the HME industry. Mobile devices allow
providers on the road to stay connected with patients, hospitals and their
home office. Laptops, in particular, are thin and lightweight. They make it easy
to operate your business from nearly anywhere.
Secondly, there is accessibility. Real-time metrics from devices are
to the provider. This can include medication, resupply charts,
medical adherence information, dosage calculation and more. That accessibility
creates a sense of patient monitoring, a trend that is expanding in the
A stronger connection between the HME provider and its patients can then
create better patient engagement. The patients knows how they are doing, and
the steps and supplies they need to take in order to help manage and improve
their care. This leads to a sense of comfort and trust, from receiving the right
equipment at the right time with great customer service to providing notifications
when bills are due. The relationship becomes about patient experience.
Referral sources find out how well providers do business, and are more
inclined to partner with them.
Before you go down the mobile app or device path, consider if the technology
is user friendly. The audience should have no trouble managing it.
Look at your own health-related applications/devices to get an idea of the ease,
or lack thereof. If you have not downloaded one, you are in the minority. A
study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research in November 2015
shows that 58 percent of surveyed mobile users have downloaded at least one
health-related mobile app.
Big Data: Stronger than Ever?
Mobile device and app usage is gaining steam, but it’s the data that is so
important. As the HME industry shifts to a value-based care model and a
focus on everything available in real time, providers face pressure to manage
increasing amounts of data.
HME providers need to collect, report and analyze data as they look to
reduce denials and handle audits, which can lead to problems stemming from
the large volume of informationthat is being handled. More data also means
more responsibility is needed. Without implementing a system that can handle
all of that data, the provider could encounter delayed billing, incorrect patient
information, or problems in other areas.
Managing data is key. New technology is helping providers successfully
collect and analyze more data quickly, but there are things to consider before
upgrading a data management system. The process is complex and can be
costly. It requires the right tools and methods. Data comes from many sources
(patients, payers, physicians) and put into one silo to track overall performance
based on key metrics. Providers need a solution that connects all areas
of their business, also often referred to as “connected care.” This is the biggest
benefit of streamlining data.
On the patient side, data is about information on quality of care or equipment.
For example, data can reveal if there are inconsistences with medication. It can help identify patients with medical conditions that need resupply
medication. Data can also help with billing and collections. Patients know
exactly when deliveries are due, while providers ensure payment is collected
and processed. This is point-of-care workflow in action. It also helps prove
the value of your devices and therapies to referrals, especially when referral
sources compare you to other options in terms of cost and value.
Another consideration of a data management system is training your
workforce. Just like with mobile devices, the technology is only as effective
as the people managing and using those devices. In this case, you should
examine current infrastructure and identity concerns. See how staff can be
trained to develop consistent reporting and metrics. The good news is that,
instead of a whole department needed to handle all the data, just one or two
analysts can manage it.
The DIY Direction
No matter the technology you want or how you use it, consider your audience
and its needs. Providers in the HME industry want solutions that fit their
individual business to stay profitable and relevant. They want technology that
helps them connect with all areas of the healthcare continuum to help grow
relationships with referral sources and improve patient care. Understand what
products and services would benefit your customers, referral sources and others
in the HME market. The right technology can help a business stand out in
The HME industry has surely gone through a lot of change recently. Many
providers face an uncertain future and are looking for ways to improve business.
It’s good to know there are tools in the market that can help adopt, grow
This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of HME Business.
Rob Boeye is the executive vice president of Home Medical Equipment for Brightree. He is responsible for leading HME revenue growth and retention. Prior to joining Brightree, Rob was with Invacare Corp. as a senior sales leader in both the homecare and long-term care markets.