Observation Deck

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 changing times.

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 available 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 post-acute space.

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 crowd.

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 and succeed.

This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

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.

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