How to Provide Optimal Communications for Sleep Resupply

Consistent patient communication, a key element of any successful resupply strategy, has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every first-rate HME provider knows the importance of a comprehensive resupply program, but providers specializing in sleep therapy are particularly aware of how resupply can affect patient outcomes as well as their bottom lines. Effective programs are efficient, regular and accomplish the ultimate goal of helping patients comply with their therapy regimens, leading to satisfied clients and referral sources.

Consistent patient communication, a key element of any successful resupply strategy, has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since most sleep labs are temporarily closed or operating at lower capacity during the crisis, providers are not seeing the same flow of new patients seeking CPAP machines or other sleep therapy equipment.

In turn, providers are increasingly reliant on reorders from their existing customer base to fuel dependable revenue streams. Through a multi-level approach that includes contacting patients through emails, phone calls, texts and app-based communication, HME businesses have a better chance of completing reorders and maximizing profit margins during a demanding time for healthcare companies.

As clients desire near-immediate answers to questions on issues or reorders, leveraging the growing suite of patient communication tools available from industry software companies is crucial to increasing low-touch revenue.

MEETING PATIENTS WHERE THEY ARE

Successful sleep therapy providers have abided by similar principles for as long as the HME industry has existed: educating the patient about their condition and the equipment they require to treat it is absolutely pivotal to ensuring the patient complies with their therapy and reorders supplies.

As the population of sleep apnea patients grows each year, providers must meet demand without sacrificing their level of engagement with patients – a tough task when providers are already overextended in the first place. Luckily, technology options have emerged to help deliver a high-quality patient experience, particularly for younger customers who are more accustomed to using mobile apps and patient portals.

Gary Sheehan, who became the CEO of Spiro Health in April and remains president of Cape Medical Supply in Massachusetts, noted that generally, the sleep patient population tends to be younger and more likely to take advantage of technology solutions than oxygen patients, who are overall part of an older generation.

“For us, it’s however you want to communicate with us as a patient or however you want us to communicate it with you, we have an option for you,” Sheehan said. “To me, that’s how you deliver the best patient experience. It’s about seeing where their expectations live and meeting them there.”

Cape Medical’s technology partner is Brightree, which launched the Patient Hub app and web portal in 2018 to place all patient interactions into one automated platform. Within the software, HME providers can set up push notifications requesting more information from patients or updating them on order and delivery status. In addition, patients have the ability to upload financial information and insurance updates as they happen.

Before choosing a patient communication solution, Sheehan encouraged providers to evaluate their specific business practices and workflow issues before turning to a technology partner for help.

“There’s no silver bullet here,” Sheehan said. “You need to understand your own business process and build out solutions that accommodate those processes. You can’t over-tech a process until you’ve taken out unnecessary steps and duplications prior to.”

OPTIMIZING AND AUTOMATING COMMUNICATION

Breakdowns in communication, whether it’s through unanswered phone calls, unread emails or ignored push notifications, can lead to major issues for providers, especially when it comes to retention of patients and referral sources. If a patient is not reordering equipment, that means they are likely not following their therapy regimen – and their doctor or primary healthcare provider will know it. That’s the opposite of the reputation that HME businesses are hoping to build.

Manual communication methods and tracking of patient contact can quickly lead to these types of issues. As providers work to maintain multiple resupply schedules, follow up with several payers and meet resupply regulations, it’s easy to see how making patient calls can fall to the end of a provider’s priority list and slip through the cracks.

Automated tools that take the guesswork out of communication can make all the difference in the sleep therapy space. Providers should consider software solutions that learn more about the patient’s preferred methods over time and eliminate ineffective business practices.

If an email outreach has been unsuccessful in the past, these tools will switch to guided call scripting or messaging at different times of day to find the best ways to reach even the most difficult, non-compliant patients.

IMPROVING RESUPPLY EXPERIENCE

The positive impact of patient communication tools is doubled if patients are given clear expectations at the outset of their PAP therapy setup. Sending the right message about the importance of resupply and simplifying the options for clients makes it easier for providers to seek reorders during difficult times, including the current COVID-19 crisis. And if there are issues with the supply chain or product demand, the patient may be more likely to forgive a provider who has sent regular updates in the past.

Letting patients express their preferences and learn more about their options allows them to feel like an active member of the process. Demoing an IDR call or showcasing the web portal for reorders reduces frustration with communication tools and improves the entire experience for patients and providers.

“Most patients are on therapy for their whole lives, and the longest period of time that patients are going to spend with therapy is in that resupply phase,” Sheehan said. “So we want to make sure that we deliver a seamless order and re-order solution to deliver the strongest patient experience possible.”

POINTS TO REMEMBER

  • Patient communication is a key element of any resupply strategy, but particularly in sleep therapy, where compliance is low and the patient population is growing.
  • Because most sleep labs closed temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the flow of new patients has slowed, making resupply revenue even more important to providers.
  • Automated tools can take the guesswork out of communication by reaching out to patients based on their preferences and previous engagement with providers.
  • A multi-level approach is typically best for ensuring that patients submit their resupply orders on time.
  • Patients should be informed about IDR calls, web portals, text messages, emails and other communication options at the outset of therapy so there are no surprises down the road.

LEARN MORE

HME Business regularly covers the latest developments in sleep therapy and resupply. Learn more by visiting the Sleep Therapy Solutions Center.

About the Author

Haley Samsel is the Associate Content Editor of HME Business and Mobility Management.

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