How to Integrate a Point of Sale Software System
Retail sales are becoming an increasingly important revenue stream for HME providers, especially in the face of decreasing Medicare funding. Moreover, the wide variety of cash sales products for homecare appeal to an equally wide variety of patients.
The key for providers is to do cash sales right, and that means implement the sorts of efficiencies that traditional retail businesses have had in place since their inception. One of those efficiencies is a point of sale systems.
The primary benefit of having a dedicated system for a point of sale transactions at an HME business is that the entry and processing of transactions goes much quicker. A traditional retail application requires staff to create an order, bill it out and accept payment, but a true point of sale system allows for rapid entry of the product and payment.
How can providers best integrate point of sale systems into their existing software systems, as well as their business practices?
Meeting customer expectations. The key driver for installing a point of sale system at the provider business is to speed transactions so that they are as efficient as typical retail businesses. Otherwise patients get impatient waiting in line. In a service-based business, fast is good and slow is bad.
Credit card processing. The point of sale system should incorporate card swiper and credit card processing technology that is properly networked so that credit card transactions are processed at the HME provider’s business just as quick as they would be processed at any other retail business. Opt for systems that has credit card processing software integrated so that you don’t have to pay a rental fee on a credit card terminal. Also, with a rented terminal, you have to go into the system and update patient accounts to show they are paid, whereas with integrated process, all necessary records are updated. Additionally, seek a system with PIN pad entry for debit card processsing.
Barcoding. The key to an effective point of sale systems is to reduce the number of steps and automate as much of the transaction as possible. For this reason, barcoding is critical. In the same way barcoding creates efficiencies on the back end of the provider’s business, such as in retail applications, barcodes should create efficiencies on the customer-facing side of the business. And in that sense, the register is where the rubber meets the road. So, a good point of sale system should be able to scan the barcode on a product and immediately capture the product number, serial number and automatically bring up the price.
Connectivity. Likewise, point of sale systems should be integrated with the other elements of a provider’s systems and share common databases. For instance, when a patient walks up to make a purchase, that patient might be a regular patient on the traditional, Medicare side of the HME business, but in this instance he or she is making a retail patient.
It would be ideal if the patient’s records could be updated with the purchases. Or, a patient might come in off the street and want to make a payment on their account for the traditional HME side of the business, such as for a copay or a delivery. They should be able to conduct that transaction on the spot via the point of sale systems, rather than draft a check and mail it in.
This means that the provider needs to determine which aspects of their HME management system — billing, patient records, inventory, etc. — should be connected to the point of sale systems and whether or not the point of sale system can do that. Moreover, if the provider operates multiple stores, it needs to determine which sites will be accessed by the retail sales system.
Pricing. While a provider might typical work with Medicare, retail pricing is a whole different ballgame. Instead of thinking fee schedules, the provider needs to be thinking in terms of the marketplace. The point of sale system needs to be able to bring up the right retail prices. Also, discounts are a part of retailing, and the provider might have special pricing related to a coupon, to a special promotion, for certain customers, gift cards, or for certain stores. Moreover, the provider might have special pricing for key referral partners. So the point of sale system must be able to support a wide variety of pricing criteria.
Hardware. When reviewing the option, key hardware for a point of sale system would include a computer hooked up to a cash drawer, along with a barcode reader and credit card reader. Also, in some parts of the country, the system must also include a display pole that lets the patient review the individual and total charges for the transaction as they are rung up. See if your HME software vendor/service provider offers a point of sale systems that is integrated with their system (some do), as that will offer the smoothest possible implementation path. If that option is not available, look at self-contained point of sale systems from name brand third-party vendors, and confer with your HME software provider on its compatibility with your system.
Points to take away:
- Retail sales are an increasingly important component of HME revenues.
- Providers need to implement the efficiencies traditional retailers have implemented, and point of sale systems are a prime example.
- Point of sale systems should provide credit and debit card processing.
- Barcording dramatically speeds up retail transactions.
- Make sure the point of sale system is connected to all key HME software systems so that it can access and update the necessary records.
- The system should be able to handle pricing flexibly, based on varying criteria.
- See if your HME software vendor offers a point of sale system that is easy to integrate.
To learn more about HME software systems, drill down through the HME Business web site to our Software Solution Center and HME Software Products directory.
This article originally appeared in the July 2009 issue of HME Business.