As all HME Providers know, CMS set a hard and fast deadline of Sept. 30, 2009 for all HME providers to be accredited in order to continue billing for Medicare part B. To most, that date might seem like plenty of time. Looks can be deceiving.
Many experts advise that accreditation can consume more time than originally estimated, and with the next 70 MSAs recently unveiled, that timing could be even tighter for companies serving those markets. (And lest we forget, for new HME providers entering the market hoping to bill Medicare, their March 1 accreditation deadline is nearly up.)
“Message one: Don’t wait. There is a deluge of providers trying to get accredited and you won’t necessarily get seen in time,” says Mary Ellen Conway, president of accreditation consulting firm Capital Healthcare Group.
Conway says that providers should remember when the MSAs for the first round of competitive bidding were announced, many in the industry felt that the deadline for providers serving those areas was extremely tight. With round two’s MSAs announced, but no timeline given, that timeline could again be appreciably tight. “The providers in those 70 MSAs need to be ready,” she says.
Why move now? Accreditation is not a quick and easy process. “It’s s six month process – that’s a best case scenario and assumes you get some help,” says Roberta Domos, RRT, owner and president The Domos HME Consulting Group.
For a small provider that is not able to dedicate a staff member to handle the accreditation process, that process could go as long as a year, Domos says. “To meld the policies and procedures into business practices, you’re probably looking at a year if you’re starting from scratch,” she explains. “Even if you dedicate a person to it, you’re looking at eight months.”
Why does the process take so long? There are multiple components to accreditation, such as integrating policies and procedures into your business, documenting those procedures, training employees and documenting that education, and ensuring facilities meet all necessary requirements all represent major business challenges that lie at the heart of accreditation, Domos explains.
Adding to the complexity of accreditation is the fact that there are a wide variety of services and products HME providers deliver to patients, not to mention varying business and fulfillment models.
“It’s not like a hospital,” says Pam Gustafson, Executive Vice President and founder of regulatory compliance consultants MCN Healthcare. “In a DME business, you have everything from an agency serving only walk-in customers, to agencies delivering oxygen and apnea monitors, to beds to orthotics. So you have a wide range of equipment, and they are all surveyed differently. Some providers are even mail order an never even see a patient, so their process is extremely different.”
Want to learn more about how to get accredited? Read our upcoming March 2008 issues’s feature on accreditation best practices so that you can get started right away.