Creating Positive DMEPOS Surveys

Nervous about your upcoming Medicare accreditation site survey? Don't be. Your AO's surveyor is just as invested in your success as you are. So what goes into a positive survey?

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In 1997 I walked into my first Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics/Orthotics, and Supplies (DMEPOS) survey at a very well-known complex rehab provider. I had just completed my training with Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC) and was ready to get started. It’s important to know this was way before the DME accreditation mandate from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). This was also back when surveys were announced, and the company knew this was survey day for the accreditation they needed to meet some of their payor requirements.

I spent the night before prepping and reviewing the company’s policies and procedures. I was ready. What I did not realize is that I was probably going to be more nervous than they were when the time came, and that this was also their first accreditation.

I wanted to represent ACHC well and add value to this experience for their company. I felt a bit sick to my stomach walking in but found that approaching whole survey process as a means to give the company value helped put everyone at ease. They had paid hard-earned money for this and deserved to have a positive experience. If I could not give them value, then I served no purpose other than to give them a certificate for the wall.

They did extremely well meeting our standards, and I learned that the purpose of the survey was to be positive even if the company was not meeting those standards. At the end of the day, I knew I always needed to ask myself if the survey was a positive experience for the company. It was not about whether they passed or failed, but rather the experience each of us had to get to the final decision. Even today, after doing hundreds of sites visits, I still feel a bit nervous because I want to make sure that each survey brings a bit of knowledge and value to the company.

Years later, when I came to work at ACHC full time, I wanted to bring that sense of accreditation as a positive experience into our work here. Accreditation is not about what a company does wrong. It is about having industry experts as Surveyors who can provide insight and help customers identify areas for improvement. Each CMS DMEPOS provider must meet the CMS Supplier and Quality Standards, but the path to get there can be educational in the process. This is why I make sure our Surveyors know they can make a difference and that they are tasked with creating a positive accreditation environment.

Our company has processes in place to help explain each standard and we encourage customers to dispute any finding they disagree with. Additionally, we give our accredited partners a method to challenge our standards and verify that they are relevant to the regulations.

Each survey is truly a journey where the Surveyor can learn as much as the company they survey. I am constantly amazed at the creativity of DMEPOS suppliers over the ways they find to ensure the care of patients while still dealing with reimbursement cuts and competitive bidding challenges.

Since 1997, I have had many positive experiences with innumerable remarkable companies and always enjoy sharing those with others. The commitment of our industry to improve the quality of life for so many reflects positively on the type of people we have serving the population. As the challenges get harder, we always seem to step up, regardless of the reimbursement or the cost.

Thanks again to all DMEPOS suppliers for your ongoing commitment to meet these challenges.

About the Author

Timothy Safley MBA, RCP, RRT, is the Program Director of DMEPOS & Sleep for the Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC). For more information, visit www.achc.org.

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