Virtual Surveys Help Keep DMEPOS Providers Current
Now that social distancing has become an everyday routine, a virtual site survey for accreditation can be conducted in a safe, convenient, and effective manner. How does it work and what do you need to know?
- By Kris Ravotti, RRT, RCP, Mark Altman, Sharon Hughes
- Jan 12, 2021
In this challenging time of COVID-19, accreditation surveys may be the last thing that many providers are thinking about. But accreditation surveys still must go on, and a key modification has proven helpful.
In June 2020, Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC) implemented a process to conduct HIPAA-compliant surveys virtually for DMEPOS providers. This process has helped accommodate providers who feared the loss of contracts or payments from payors if their accreditations expired.
Now that social distancing has become an everyday routine, a virtual survey can be conducted in a safe, convenient, and effective manner while not compromising the integrity of the survey process. Working virtually eliminates the concerns of Surveyor travel and in-person contact and allows the provider to focus more on patient care and business operations.
ACHC virtual surveys are conducted by the same industry experts who perform on-site surveys, and the process allows the Surveyors to observe everything that they would see on the premises of DMEPOS organizations. Because of this, virtual surveys cover the same scope, quality, and review of the standards as on-site surveys.
Preparation in advance of the virtual survey is very important because everything the Surveyor needs to see must now be shown through a computer. If the provider’s personnel and patient files are not in an electronic format, documents must be scanned for viewing by the Surveyor. The virtual survey platforms that are used have been researched and are HIPAA-compliant.
The provider should test the virtual platform in advance with either a cell phone or a laptop to practice using the technology in the location. In most cases, several devices might be used, such as a cell phone along with a tablet and a computer. Testing multiple devices will enhance the provider’s familiarity with the virtual process and help to reduce any technical delays on the day of survey.
In conducting hundreds of virtual surveys, ACHC has created and refined a process to help make the virtual survey go smoothly. This process includes assessing each provider’s willingness and ability to have a survey conducted virtually. This assessment takes into consideration whether the customer has the technology needed to participate in a virtual survey, and ACHC provides guidance on how to prepare documentation to be shown the day of the survey.
Are virtual surveys here to stay? It is hard to say.
While some payors are allowing virtual surveys, a payor may still require an on-site follow-up survey, which is making accreditation a two-step process. Also, if regulations require virtual surveys to be unannounced or to allow only a short window for notification, the provider will need to be prepared to have the survey conducted on short notice and to make appropriate staff will be available.
It is difficult to let go of the personal touch associated with an on-site survey. However, having to prepare all documents, files, and other materials before a virtual survey allows the provider time to gather what is needed, and doing so can help the provider feel more prepared and less stressed the day of a survey.
A provider with off-site staff can also have those staff members participate virtually and join all or just part of the survey. For organizations with multiple locations, virtual surveys allow members from the corporate office to attend all surveys and for the survey process to be quicker because travel time is not needed.
Time will tell how well providers and regulators take to the virtual survey process. In the meantime, as the pandemic goes on, this type of survey provides an option for the accreditation process that is performed in a safe and effective manner.
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Kris Ravotti, RRT, RCP is the Clinical Compliance Educator for the Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC). For more information, visit www.achc.org.