Catering to Wound Care Customers

Support surface providers can wield their in-depth product knowledge to great effect when helping wound care clinicians and their patients.

Providers of therapeutic support surfaces might not realize how well positioned they are to truly help wound care patients and their clinical referral partners with their DME offerings. Wound care patients require specific therapeutic benefits depending on the type and severity of their wound, and often referral partners are not aware of what’s available.

However, providers can sometimes feel a little trepidation when working with clinical wound care professionals because the care of wounds requires such dedicated and precise care. How can providers better cater to these partners and patient?

The first hump to overcome is committing to support surfaces. DME providers shouldn't treat Group 1 and Group 2 support surfaces the same way they might treat hospital beds, wheelchairs or walkers — they compete on service. Competing on service may be an effective way to get more business in some DME categories, but not in Group 1 and 2 surfaces. Simply filling orders will yield a disproportionate share of referrals.

Rather, provider must fully commit. No, they don't need to be clinicians or know how to stage pressure ulcers themselves, but they should understand the basics of staging and how that related to support surface options when staging is mentioned in the health records.

To that end, ICD 10 codes provide precise information regarding pressure ulcers that make it easier for providers to qualify beneficiaries for bed and seated support surfaces. The ICD-10 code for pressure ulcer is L89, and that code includes specific location and wound depth or stage. So, for example, L89.133 denotes a pressure ulcer of right lower back, stage 3. Beneficiaries with L89.133 would qualify for and benefit from a skin protection cushion (if they had and qualified for a wheelchair via Medicare) and group 2 support surface.

Ultimately, It comes down to understanding the language and then understanding what product solutions would correlate with that wound. And that’s a good role for the provider to fulfill, because at it turns out their counterparts on the clinical side of the fence can really benefit from the product knowledge that engaged providers will amass. This puts the provider in an excellent position to educate the clinician and establish itself as an informed, expert resource.

In terms of education, providers don’t necessarily need special education or certification on the team, but coverage knowledge will definitely in providing knowledgeable services for both patients and referral partners. Providers should definitely understand coverage criteria and guidelines for health record charting and documentation.

So, how to get started? Providers should ensure they fulfill three very basic requirements to ensure they develop a successful referral partner education program:

  • Learn the medical justification needed to qualify a patient for both Group 1 and 2 surfaces and various cushions, so they can educate referring clinicians.
  • Learn objective information about each support surface technology and teach referral partners the advantages and limitations of each.
  • Understand how to match a specific product’s features to benefit a specific patient population.

Ultimately, it all comes down to possessing rock-solid product knowledge and being able to communicate that information to the clinician. This lets the provider become an educator and a facilitator. And filling that particularly niche in a competitive DME marketplace is exactly where smart providers need to be.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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