Computer Software Update

Government mandated accreditation! That phrase should not bring terror to your heart. The whole purpose of mandatory accreditation is to assure that your business is providing quality care to your patients. Accrediting agencies have standards that can help. You can begin by making sure that your staff is knowledgeable and that your business is running on sound footing. Most HME businesses have three major areas where money is invested or tied up: staff payroll, inventory and accounts receivable. Let's take a look at staff training and documentation management and the role both play in your office.

Staff Training

Staff is often the most overlooked major expense at a company. A couple of times per month, you make a major investment in your staff when you write payroll checks. Unfortunately, many companies cut corners by looking for a person wanting the least amount of money; or if a company is willing to pay more for experienced staff, the company doesn't continue to invest in staff training. In my 14 years of selling and training, the lack of continuing education of staff is one of the biggest short falls I see at HME businesses and pharmacies. Continuing education should center around two areas: software training as well as industry/insurance billing.

Software Training

Many of you have already invested in software to help manage your business. When you make your purchase, you received some initial training. After initial training, many companies never invest in follow-up training. Stop and look around your office staff. How many of these people were with you when you received the initial training after purchase? I bet that many employees were not at the initial training.

Typically, most HME companies depend on a staff person to train new employees on how to use software. Do you remember sitting in a circle playing the "gossip game," where you started with some phrase "abcde" and by the time it got all the way around the circle the word was "agotz"? No matter how smart people are, there is always some breakdown in the information passed from one person to the next. This type of "gossip game" training causes your staff to not know many features of your software. Breakdown in communication can cause employees to say "our software can't perform a task" simply because they don't want to admit that they don't know how to perform a certain task.

With HME software continually being updated, staff training is imperative. Keep in mind that software maintenance and support contract with a software vendor normally does not include new training. It is not the job of software vendors' support staff to train you. They have staff dedicated to training. So how often and when should you be trained? First, all new staff should be trained only by your software vendor. Staff will receive the best training and get the most recent training tools or manuals. Second, you should request training with each update. This normally can be done via the phone or online in an hour or so. If your software vendor offers training seminars at their offices or at Medtrade, you should rotate sending staff to these seminars. Finally, every 12 to 18 months, you should bring a trainer from your software vendor to your site for a one- or two-day personal seminar. Although this may seem pricey, the benefits more than pay for themselves.

Industry Training

Intake, billing and collection training for your staff is just as important as software training. This training is available in seminars, online Webinars, phone training, online self-paced training and printed materials. Let's take a look at some of these options.

Live seminars are the best training option available. The largest selection of these seminars takes place at both Medtrade shows each year. At Medtrade there are typically three or four one-hour blocks offered each day of the show in specific categories. Beginning a couple of years ago, one-day boot camps have been offered the day before Medtrade exhibits open. All of these seminars are excellent opportunities to hear from some of the HME industry's leading speakers and consultants on a variety of intake, billing and collection issues. Within a two- or three-year period, all of your customer service representatives, billing staff and collections staff should attend a Medtrade event.

If you are looking for a more affordable option, local training is available through your state HME association. Depending on the association, meetings are one to 12 times per year and offer excellent training opportunities. While more limited in scope and with fewer training classes offered, state associations can focus on particular billing issues for your DMERC, your state Medicaid/Medicare program or other major carriers in your state. If you are not already a member of your state association, you can access the AAHomecare Web site to get a list of state associations. Many of these state associations sponsor phone and online training seminars that require no travel at all. AAHomecare, VGM and UCG, publishers of the "Home Medical Equipment Answer Book," offer major training conferences each year as well. VGM through its VGM University and DMETrain offer self-paced online training for anyone with Internet access. These training sessions are offered for a fee per company or employee and even offer feedback to owners and managers on how well the employee is learning the material. DMERCs offer a variety of low-cost, live seminars at cities around their regionsand also online Webinars at no charge. A couple of the industry's leading consultants offer regional training seminars around the country also. Most of the leading consultants have printed training manuals for intake, billing and/or collections. UCG's "Home Medical Equipment Answer Book," available in a combination print/ CD product, combines the four DMERC manuals in an easy-to-understand format.

Continuing software and industry training will increase efficiency allowing employees to do their jobs better, which should correlate to providing quality care to patients.

Check out Computer Software Products.

Computer Software

Ac-Cura HME

Carecentric

CareCentric's Ac-Cura HME can be downloaded at www.carecentric.com. Featuers include an Automated Smart Navigator online clean claim resolution, ERN payment posting, inventory management by location and online education and support.

The DME Office

SoftAid

SoftAid's The DME Office features a purchase order module that automates the inventory ordering process. The software also reduces complexities involved in creating new orders, managing re-orders and tracking open purchases, and line item inventory files are automatically updated to reflect the new on-hand or back-ordered totals.

Fax Feature/Document Storage

Fastrack

The Fax Feature/Document Storage from Fastrack sends and receives faxes. Incoming faxes can be reviewed and stored under a tab in a specific patient, doctor, referral source or insurance carrier record.

This article originally appeared in the January 2006 issue of HME Business.

About the Authors

Bob Radvanovsky, CISM, CIFI is a member of the Chicago Chapter of the FBI?s INFRAGARD organization, and is an active participant with several online security-focused magazines and discussion forums. He has an MS in Computer Science from DePaul University in Chicago. He has been awarded several professional certifications in the fields of information technology and security, including that of Certified Information Forensics Investigator for specialization in criminal IT forensics management. He has special interests and knowledge in matters of critical infrastructures, and has published a number of articles and whitepapers on the topic. He has been significantly involved in establishing security training and awareness programs through his company, Infracritical.

Deborah V. DiBenedetto, MBA, R.N., COHN-S/CM, ABDA, is president of DVDiBenedetto & Associates Ltd. and president of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses and senior consultant for Medgate Inc. She can be contacted at (914) 771-5152, or by visiting www.dvdandhaag.com.

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