The Personal Touch

New technology can bring you closer to your patients and reduce staff labor and error rates at the same time

Back in the day, you contacted all your patients by phone or when they came into the store and sent bills by mail. That’s still fine for some customers, but the changing demographics of diabetes patients mean it’s not enough.

“There’s people who like face-to-face interaction, they want a phone call or to come in so they really feel cared for. We see that changing now. While we still see those people who want to come in and get their information, we see a lot of younger people who don’t want to return five voicemails,” says Lisa Anderson, Education & Outreach coordinator at Universal Software Solutions, Inc. “It’s no longer ‘all your clients are elderly.’”

Serving a large population of young diabetes patients may mean adopting some enemy tactics (See What’s For Lunch? on page Rx8) to win the battle. Patients from babies to boomers are glued to their digital technology. They’re spoiled to instant response, used to communicating by text, watching video screens, and expecting overnight home delivery. You think that’s competition you can’t crack? Wrong. There’s an app for that.

“It’s a misperception of small companies is that they would need a programmer to create these tools,” Anderson says. That’s Universal’s niche in the market. The company started with billing software, but expanded into workflow and data management with the Healthcare Data Management System (HDMS). Now Universal aggressively pursues partners for add-ons that it can scale to any size business. The company’s products are designed to integrate with your business software, to give you a cafeteria of digital options to help you reach your target patients with cutting-edge technology.

“I can’t tell you how many people say, ‘we really struggle with this’ and I can tell them we already have a solution for that,” Anderson says. “You don’t have to be a big hospital to take advantage of those tools…You can have all the integration and all of the tech that your larger competitors have, and we will tell you how to use it, in simple terms.”

Phone calls may still fit the preferences of some customers, but clients who are (or whom you want to encourage to be) more active want their contacts and services on the go. Your outreach arsenal needs to include email, text and fast home resupply. “It has to be easy and transparent,” Anderson says.

One example is Play-It Health, which is actually a Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) app that a doctor designed to help physicians track their patients. It gives both the patient and doctor a window to track how the patient is doing as well as giving patients medication and appointment reminders and letting care providers send encouraging messages, nutritional plans and educational items with reward-based quizzes. It can also link to connected devices from CPAP devices to scales to track and access that information, and let patients ask the provider questions about symptoms or other issues.

“When they log in or use the app, they can get tips, read articles and get recipes. It gives you points for adherence,” Anderson says. “Ultimately, what that does is it crates healthier people, less trips to the hospital. They’re connected to a community and providers.”

If your system isn’t built to hold a lot of new digital content, Universal can do that for you in Stowpoint, a storage offering that lets you keep video, audio and other digital files in the cloud. That gives you space to stash documents and photos of patient insurance cards as well as offer your patients training and reminders they can access any time, anywhere.

Offering a resupply program can harness patient convenience to make your job easier, which can help your small business compete on Amazon turf. The tools your software providers offer can make it painless for you, meet patients on their own terms and create a record that can hold up to audit. Even better, soon you won’t be limited to an in-store experience, because the upcoming round of competitive bidding removes the national mail-order restriction.

“A really good resupply program should create for a provider a dependable, recurring, low-touch revenue stream that allows them to maximize any revenue gains that are available,” says Morgan Dopplick, Brightree’s director of Connect Operations.

According to Brightree research, 60 percent of patients have never been offered a resupply program, and 61 percent of those say they’d like to give it a try. That’s an opportunity for you, because nearly as many patients who opt in to a resupply program are still with it 20 months later. By Brightree’s calculation, that adds an average of $224 a year per patient in revenue.

A resupply system also helps pharmacists and DMEs “make sure the patient care they provide doesn’t stop after the initial order,” Dopplick says. “The solution should be one that promotes the patient being adherent to their therapy, and assures that they are getting consistent receipt of the necessary supplies.”

As Universal’s Anderson puts it, with a good resupply program “They are not going to go somewhere else. Rounding out that resupply technology wraps your arms around the patient in a hug.”

You’ve probably looked to your distributors for drop-shipping and private label service for a while, but you may not know about new features they offer. Universal also partners with McKesson to offer its VerbalCare resupply app.

“We see those big companies developing in these patient care areas,” Anderson says. “McKesson has recently developed VerbalCare. It’s an app with three buttons. It gives you reminders about your diabetes, when you are eligible for new supplies and things like that. It streamlines the process in a way that feels very accessible.” It also lets providers send educational materials, surveys and troubleshooting videos.

“Providers that adopt a resupply program should see benefits in efficiency. Especially if they are supporting multiple product lines, being able to put all their resupply in the same workflow is truly a big benefit,” Dopplick says. A resupply program can help reduce staff labor and error rates while creating a record that helps the provider keep track.

Brightree ReSupply started in the sleep space, but was recently expanded to support product lines for diabetic, enteral and incontinence products. It has robust patient contact features as well as back-end analytics that can help you manage staff and revenue, spot trends and set benchmarks for your business.

The suite includes features including a brandable, web-based patient portal that lets patients place resupply orders anytime, anywhere; live patient outreach including the ability to create sales orders with Brightree agents; advanced voice recognition (VR) technology for automated, no-touch resupply orders; a scheduled order feature that lets patients to request and receive orders on a regular cycle; email; and a “guided calling assistant” that helps you manage outbound contacts and call-in or walk-in patients, using payer-compliant scripts to generate orders based on patient responses. A recent addition is the PatientHub app, a mobile extension of ReSupply. “Patient Hub gives us the ability to reach out to the patient in a mobile environment,” Dopplick says.

“There is an integration piece that lets the patient see what they are ordering, when they are ordering it, updating the dates when they are eligible and doing the whole app can see that happen,” she says. “There’s also the validation piece, where it’s going through and confirming things like insurance eligibility, confirming what products, doing those things behind the scenes that traditionally the provider would have to handle manually.”

For providers new to the mobile space, Universal offers a “sandbox” area to let clients try out new apps and features in a safe environment. “It fills in the gaps of some of the grey areas.” Anderson says. “A salesperson can tell you all the features but this lets clients try things out.”

Both software providers offer support to integrate new features into your office software, train your staff to use them and support new regulations and payer requirements as they come up.

This article originally appeared in the DME Pharmacy December 2019 issue of HME Business.