How to Use HME Software to Keep Your Deliveries Humming in Fifth Gear
HME operations currently sit on the front lines of providers’ fight to ensure their businesses stand up to the volleys of funding difficulties CMS throws their way. Providers must isolate unnecessary costs and find new efficiencies any way they can in order to save as much money as possible. Every dollar HMEs save goes back to their bottom line and to help ensure they can keep fighting to serve their patients.
And a key cost center within providers’ operations is deliveries. The costs of maintaining a fleet of vehicles, staffing good drivers, the fuel, and other related factors so that the business can roll trucks to deliver DME, pick up equipment, effect repairs in the field, and distribute supplies and medical oxygen represents a massive segment of their overhead. If providers can find any way to cut even a fraction of that cost, the resulting cost savings can become massive when compounded over time.
Fortunately, HME software systems and related technology can help in many ways to help increase delivery efficiencies and drive down costs. Here are some key considerations:
Order out of Chaos
Needless to say, one of the biggest challenges in managing delivery operations is ensuring that all the day’s calls are properly apportioned to the drivers and that they are able to efficiently make their rounds, while also being able to respond to unique or urgent calls that crop during the day. Without software, this can represent a mind-boggling task.
However, various HME software systems and related offerings are able to help providers easily generate efficient routes from the list of service calls and apportion them to each driver. Delivery management can generate the following days’ deliveries each evening, and in the morning, the drivers come in, are handed their pre-planned delivery routes and tickets for the day and set out on their rounds.
However, creating sensible routes that minimize mileage is only part of the delivery efficiencies offered by software. Additionally, HME software systems can also help providers to ensure that each driver adheres to optimal gas mileage by not traveling to fast or too slow by approximating how long a driver should take between one patient address and another.
To help management stay on top of delivery operations in the back office, some HME software systems provider tools that let drivers call into and log their completed deliveries, refills and maintenance calls via interactive voice response. This lets management know where drivers are at in their deliveries, whether or not they are on schedule, and where they are geographically on the map. If an emergency call comes up, the HME will have a better idea of which driver can respond most quickly.
And if an HME wants even more oversight of their delivery operations, GPS tools offered by some industry vendors provide real-time management of the entire fleet. (To read more about this, turn to “How to Implement GPS in Your Delivery Operations,” on page 30.)
In addition to control and oversight, delivery management tools provide HMEs with an additional benefit: information. By collecting a variety of metrics regarding delivery performance, providers are able to identify areas for improvement, which will ultimately help it cut costs.
Getting Information on the Field
At this point, you should notice that most of all the intelligence and advantages that software and related technologies bring to delivery operations sits squarely at the back office, where dispatch staff can orchestrate the process. While that is obviously critical to increasing efficiency and driving down service, it begs the question: What about the drivers?
Fortunately, many software vendors are now putting information in drivers’ hands, where it can make a considerable difference in the battle to cut costs. When armed with a smart phone or similar hand-held device, providers can access their route for the day’s deliveries, delivery tickets, patient information, mapping tools and similar information. Likewise, they can confirm that deliveries and repairs have been made, as well as capture patient signatures to confirm receipt of delivery, that repairs have been made, or that patients have been instructed in a piece of DME’s use.
Also, drivers can receive real-time updates to their delivery schedules, and, with some systems, if drivers carry inventory needed for a new order in their trucks, that order can be added to their deliveries, as well.
Another Crucial Benefit
In addition to increasing delivery efficiencies and thusly cutting costs, leveraging HME software and related technologies are indispensable, but they confer an additional benefit: Much improved patient relations. Increasing delivery efficiency and reliability means better customer service. It also means that the provider can get a driver to a patient’s door much more quickly in emergency or otherwise extremely urgent situations. That kind of responsiveness creates patient relationships that will be around for the long haul.
Points to take away:
- Deliveries are a crucial cost center and sit at the forefront of HMEs’ efforts to drive down operational costs.
- HME software and related systems and services can help them find new efficiencies through delivery management features.
- These technology tools help them plan each day’s deliveries with an eye on efficient mileage and reducing delays.
- Drivers can call into interactive voice response systems to log their deliveries to help management stay on top of things.
- Some systems can even interface with drivers in the field via wireless handheld devices.
This article originally appeared in the July 2010 issue of HME Business.