Observation Deck

A Framework for Effective Business

Complete compliance offers a strategic edge.

In our industry, we most commonly associate compliance with the rules and regulations that we must master in order to correctly bill and receive reimbursement from both government funding sources and third-party payors. However, when we look at compliance as a broader term, we can uncover many other areas where adherence to established procedure and policy can deliver effective results and get your business running at maximum efficiency, which in turn will help you better serve your customers. In many areas, astrategy of compliance can directly translate into a stronger business operation.

Define Clear Procedures – The daily operation of any business is essentially the completion of set tasks, many of which are repetitive in nature. When you take the time to define clear procedures outlining how these tasks are best performed, you can see what works and what doesn’t and where you can improve. For example, layout the best method to handle service calls:

  • Start with identifying the proper staff to handle the call;
  • Determine the most efficient means of troubleshooting the problem;
  • Identify what is required to resolve the issue;
  • Examine the process needed to complete the repair;
  • Log all issues so trend data can be examined to eliminate future issue recurrences

Defined best practices and procedures make it easy to adopt a systemized methodology which in turn can be developed into your company policy. You’ll need to do this not only for business procedures like processing an order or evaluating a patient, but also for your own internal human resource procedures like hiring, interviewing, and setting compensation and benefits.

Set Policy – Once you’ve determined the correct and most efficient means of completing a task you’ll need to develop it into written policy in order to create compliancy benchmarks for your staff. Outline what is required in a methodology that is easy for managers to teach and for employees to learn.

A highly visible example of written policy for the internal operations of a company is an employee handbook. Most handbooks cover employee programs and benefits, compensation practices and employment and confidentiality policies. Even small companies can benefit from a comprehensive handbook that serves as a written resource for employees and outlines compliance to federal and state labor requirements. It will let your employees know exactly what is expected from them in terms of attendance and performance and will let them know what they can expect in terms of benefits and compensation.

Written polices should also outline best practices for all business operations. Many manufacturers offer a variety of tools such as trouble shooting guides and comprehensive reimbursement support materials to make things a bit easier. While you know what’s best for your individual operation, consulting with manufacturers to see what they can offer is a sound way to streamline your polices for maximum efficiency. Just remember, when you button up your business operation with defined policies you are giving yourself an excellent set of self diagnostic tools to monitor the overall health of your business.

Develop Champions for Compliance – The only way to ensure compliance with your policies, manufacturer’s policies and the requirements of payers is to let your staff know what they are. The success of a business is directly impacted by its commitment to employee development which includes training, performance management, and career development. Regularly educate your company’s leaders on HR policies, management principles specific to your business and compliance on all pertinent issues. Conduct training specific to employees’ job functions and offer cross-training opportunities to employees. Employee training should be a formal, well documented process so that you can track your employee’s progress. Training doesn’t have to be a lengthy process but does need a defined scope for each position.

Document who is trained, how often and the precise subject matter of the training. Documented training is especially important to help your business meet regulations. It is human nature that people will make mistakes and forget or overlook steps along the way and regulations can change often. By keeping your education initiative current you can move quickly to correct any error and help prevent it from becoming a reoccurring problem. Also, by documenting and updating your training procedures, you are working to protect your business from potential problems and any appearance of impropriety.

HME providers deal with different state regulations and insurance guidelines dependent upon their business structure. That makes it imperative to keep accurate records of employee training and certifications, and verifying education is becoming a bigger factor for many governing agencies. A good record keeping system allows providers to handle audits effectively. Many accrediting agencies require internal processes that handle almost any type of business situation, so your records should be readily available.

Develop subject matter experts by investing in educational opportunities, like those provided by state associations, buying groups and manufacturers, and by supplying regimented career development plans to develop employees within existing roles into higher level roles. Through these plans, employees own their destiny, are extremely successful, and drive the business objectives forward. This also alleviates the need for hiring a separate training manager. When your employees are motivated to teach others it builds self-esteem and provides opportunities for recognition.

Ethics Matter – When you run a fully compliant organization, you are sending a clear message that ethics are a cornerstone of your operation. It lets your employees know that you do things the right way and expect them to do the same. Your customers will see that you are dedicated to fairly helping them achieve the best outcome. Manufacturers will see that you are representing their products well. A reputation of doing things right will go a long way in public perception of your business.

A common misconception of compliance is that it represents an obstacle to getting things done and can be perceived as anti-business or anti-efficient. As we’ve seen above the opposite is true. When you know where you stand in terms of your company’s compliance to both outside regulation and internal policies, you have a complete picture of the health of your operation.

This article originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Kirsten DeLay is the chair of Medtrade’s Blue Ribbon Task Force and the executive VP of sales management & operational planning for Pride Mobility Products Corp., Exeter, Pa. Kirsten can be reached via e-mail at kdelay@pridemobility. com or by calling (800) 800-8586.

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