The 2013 HME Handbook: Software

Laying a Retail Foundation

How to leverage HME software for implementing cash sales.

SoftwareIt’s becoming clear that cash sales represents not just an opportunity for HME providers — it’s necessary to their survival. As Round Two of competitive bidding rounds the bend and providers continue to see their reimbursement hampered under Medicare’s pre- and post-payment audit program, or reduced due to other funding cuts, they must find new ways to drive revenues.

And retail makes perfect sense for those providers. There are a multitude of products that complement their existing DME offerings and that appeal to their patients. And providers have the unique product and patient care knowledge and expertise that allows them to differentiate from mainstream retailers and appeal to patients. In many respects, cash sales are a natural extension of what providers already do.

That said, they might need a little help when it comes to infrastructure. Providers are experts when it comes to processing Medicare claims and ensuring they get funded for various DME offerings, but cash sales require a bit of a back office Renaissance. Most likely, an HME business with retail in mind will need a system that can help them implement cash sales within their businesses.

Fortunately, there’s a good chance those providers already have that system. Many HME software products offer a variety of tools that can help HME providers lay an operational foundation to help them implement cash sales. Let’s look at some of the various technology elements and pieces of “retail infrastructure” providers will want to ensure their software systems support:

The point of sales system. One of the first places to start is a cash register, otherwise known as a point of sales system. Providers should ensure their transactions are as fast and efficient as any typical retail businesses, because that will be the customer expectation.

So, the point of sale system needs to include all the key items that will make it function quickly and seamlessly. It should incorporate 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 shows the patient individual and total charges for the transaction as they are rung up.

The goal is to ensure that the point of sales system used offers the smoothest possible implementation path for the provider. Bearing that in mind, many HME software vendors offers a point of sale systems that are integrated with their systems. If the software vendor doesn’t offer one, selfcontained point of sale systems from name brand third-party vendors are available. In that case, the provider should confer with its software provider on compatibility and systems integration.

Seek credit and debit card processing. A card swiper, PIN pad and credit and debit card processing capability is an absolutely “must.” The point of sales system must process credit card transactions as quickly as would any other retail business. So, providers should look for systems that offer credit card processing software integrated so that you don’t have to pay a rental fee on a credit card terminal. Moreover, an integrated system will update all patient records with retail transactions.

Support barcoding. Efficiency on the retail side of the business is essential. To that end, barcoding is a critical point of sale element because it reduces the number of steps and automates as much of the retail transaction as possible. 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 pricing, while also deducting the product from inventory and entering the product into the customer’s patient file when the transaction is complete. If those steps had to be undertaken manually during a retail transaction, the customer probably would have abandoned that transaction.

Ensure back office integration. Point of sale systems should be integrated with the other elements of a provider’s information systems and databases. Ideally billing, patient records and inventory should be connected to the point of sale system. This way the point of sale system can update inventory when a product is purchased, and amend the patient’s record (if the customer is also a patient) with the purchase. Moreover, if the patient needed to make a co-pay, he or she could pay it at the register as well. Smart integration fosters flexibility.

Use technology for special pricing and promotions. Retail pricing is not the same as Medicare reimbursement rates; it is fluid rather than static. Providers’ retail systems need to support various pricing criteria, such as discounts, special pricing related to coupons, incorporate special promotions, gift cards, or different pricing for different locations, customers, or even referral partners.

Points to take away:

  • Cash sales are critical for survival, and providers need to create the right infrastructure to support it.
  • HME software systems are a key part of that infrastructure, and point of sales systems are an essential hardware element.
  • Those systems should support key retail functions, such as debit and credit card pricing, as well as barcoding, so that they ensure speedy retail transactions.
  • Those systems should also be integrated with provider inventory, patient records and billing on the back end.

Learn More:

  • Providers can read various features, articles and columns to learn more about the various HME software systems and strategies for using them at our software solutions center at hme-business.com.
  • Providers can read more about implementing retail sales to drive new revenues at our cash sales solutions center found at hme-business.com.

This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of HME Business.

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