If you’re like most people, in the 10 seconds it takes for the ball to drop over Times Square, you’re madly making mental notes on how to start the New Year off with a bang. But do your resolutions fizzle after just a few months, leaving you right back where you started? This year, shake the “Auld Lang Sign” lethargy with Home Health Products’ surefire guide to stay on target with your 2007 business resolutions. We’ve asked software manufacturers to give us the skinny on how trends in technology can help your business prosper.
Resolution: Get organized.
Software, the ultimate electronic bin, adds virtual shelving to your accounting and client tracking needs. Shoe boxes are not the place for business receipts, as any IRS auditor will tell you. But just how do you get control over billing and invoices?
With software, organization is easy. Most, if not all, software systems provide accounting modules to easily track incoming and outgoing revenues. Other modules allow companies to include e-billing for easy client tracking.
“Our client’s want software that is intuitive and ‘smart’ — that can manage the different kinds of things they do on a daily basis,” says Kent Barnes, director of marketing, TeamDME!, Brentwood, Tenn.
But the key to staying on top of finances may just be in the unique reporting features of some software. Jeneane Brian, clinical executive, Homecare Systems, Misys Healthcare Systems, Raleigh, N.C., says, “We are adding new, innovative and unique clinical reporting that will enable agencies to best allocate expensive resources (nurse specialists and monitoring equipment as examples) to the patients who need it most.”
Imagine your software as a crystal ball. With all of the data your business produces on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis, software can help spot trends and ultimately figure out where a business will be in the next few years.
Barnes says TeamDME! has focused on providing “a complete front and back end management solution, so you (providers) can manage all of your billing needs, plus you can easily pay your bills and produce your profit and loss statements.”
Resolution: Upgrade your system.
Like a good mobility system, today’s software solutions offer the ultimate in modularity — allowing customized software systems. So, if you’ve been scrimping to purchase a brand-new, state-of-the-art system, put your pennies back in the bank. Many programs offer upgrades that build on your current system. The possibilities new for 2007 are endless.
“A recent poll showed that over 40 percent of the providers in the study group were unhappy with their billing software and were looking to change,” says Esther Apter, CEO, MedFORCE Technologies, Chestnut Ridge, N.Y. And software manufacturers are taking note.
“Recent CMS guidelines, accreditation standards and billing changes have made demands on the providers who in turn have challenged the technology companies for answers,” explains Apter. “Technology companies are trying to respond to these changes as rapidly as possible. The old saying ‘the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’ is appropriate here. Providers need to be cautious about changing to another technology provider without giving their current provider an opportunity to evaluate the perceived weaknesses and possibly resolve them.”
Apter says providers want technology to automate processes, build revenue and reduce human resource expenses.
Ed Kutt, president, DIABCO Medical Billing Systems, Delray Beach, Fla., says today’s software understands the many workloads of an HME business. “The majority of HME providers are looking for multifunctional billing software systems,” he says. As a result, software companies are expanding functionality to allow software systems to grow with the HME business. Modules encompass billing, inventory and much more.
Resolution: Get ready for competitive bidding.
The black cloud hanging over many providers, the National Competitive Acquisition program, has put many HME businesses on edge. But with the help of a few software solutions, businesses can get back on track for 2007.
“Mandatory accreditation and competitive bidding are big concerns and will be a big issue in 2007,” says DIABCO Medical Billing Systems’ Kutt. “Reductions in allowables, cash flow, and fast, maximum reimbursement are the main topics discussed when clients contact DIABCO asking about our software products. Our users agree that investing in efficient billing technology and software is more important than ever.”
Kutt says that for HME companies to survive, they will need to become more efficient. Software can help a business do just that. “These tools have to be jet-fast, powerful and easy to use,” says Kutt.
“The fact is, you cannot relieve the pressure of growing daily workloads by working harder and harder,” he says. “We all have to look for strong, supporting software.”
“National competitive bidding and reimbursement cuts have been in the forefront of every provider’s mind for the last few years,” agrees MedFORCE’s Apter. “Although the prospect of reduced reimbursement is not a positive thought, it should be the needed incentive for providers to self-examine their business practices.
“Many businesses are already running very lean and efficient offices; however, effective business management is a lifestyle not a diet,” she says. “I think most home health providers will be utilizing this opportunity to re-examine processes such as delivery, intake, billing and collections, and other tasks that draw on resources to determine where processes can be eliminated, automated or changed to reduce expenses to be able to compete effectively.”
Software helps prepare companies for the upcoming changes, agrees Karen Apa, marketing director, SoftAid, Miami. “With competitive bidding looming, mid- to small-size providers are angling to carve out their own niche in the marketplace,” Apa says. “Most providers know that in the end good customer service wins out. The goal now is to provide efficient, streamlined, cost-effective service while meeting and exceeding customer expectations.”
Software companies like TeamDME! are building software with accreditation requirements built in. Barnes says software makes it easy for providers to quickly deliver accreditation requirements.
Resolution: Cut costs on computer applications.
Tired of expensive servers, backing up data and the constant costs of software programs? On-demand systems are coming into their own as more users need programs that are accessible online. Now all you need is a modem to access your files from anywhere your business takes you. And the bonus is that these programs cut costs, too.
Many companies launched Web-based programs — software as a service programs — at Medtrade, including DIABCO Medical Systems’ AR-Express SaaS, Healthcare Automation’s HomecareNet On Demand and CAU’s Solution/One HME SaaS.
Improve your bottom line with Noble*Express, a stand-alone software product that provides Medicare patient eligibility information with deductable info, HMO status, Hospice & Hospital dates and provides updated patient info. “Information is instant, providing you with real-time data on your patients’ eligibility to receive your products and services. You can use Noble*Express with any billing software. Providers are enamored with our free trail and excited about not having to call Medicare to get the information provided by Noble*Express and how they can improve their bottom line. We received much praise for our new product and continue to work with providers to implement Noble*ExpressT in their companies,” says Noble House’s Richard Basch.
Resolution: Gain control over inventory.
So, organization is not your forte, but many experts warn that letting the inventory control the business will ultimately cut profit.
MedFORCE’s Apter explains that companies looking to cut expenses are focusing on automating tasks, like delivery. Global Positioning Systems, for example, “makes the delivery process more efficient,” she says.
“Do it right the first time,” says Jay Williams, national sales manager for QS/1, Spartanburg, S.C. “HMEs can either take the time to set up inventory correctly the first time, or be forced to take the time to set it up again later. If HMEs don’t take the time to do it correctly the first time, it will become a situation of ‘pay me now or pay me later.’ The proper setup of inventory is painstaking in the short-term, but offers a long-term gain of having an inventory system that is controlled by and useful to you,” Williams recommends.
So if you are a provider investing in your first software program or switching software programs, don’t rush your inventory set up in your desire to get your claims out. “In their rush to get claims out, some HMEs sacrifice setting up their inventory properly, which can lead to claims being denied, large accounts receivables, and the necessity to hire more people to handle growing account receivables,” Williams says.
Resolution: Operate business from the field.
The service component of HME requires that providers always be on the go. Software that helps providers manage the business from the field is essential to smooth operation. Many software companies already offer PDA devices that allow for on-site reporting and some are tweaking the software setup to provide instant data.
When asked what home health providers will be looking for in their 2007 software, Misys’ Brian answered, “They are looking for decision support and intuitive work flow. This promotes efficiency and sustains solid clinical results.”
To answer those needs, Misys offers dashboards for at-a-glance summaries of work and patient information at the point of care.
Resolution: Payer-proof your business.
Getting funding quickly and easily helps business stay afloat. Software can police denials to make the funding process run smoothly.
Eligibility systems help prevent billing errors by offering on-the-spot approvals. These systems assist with claims appeals and show the client’s deductible for collection.
Tired of worrying about the billing nightmare? Try outsourcing. MedFORCE’s sister company, Healthcare Management Solutions, offers software that automates the entire billing process.
Resolution: Go paperless.
No room for storage? Feeling a bit sorry for all those trees? A paperless office might be a way to clean up the office and save a little money.
Document imaging increases the effectiveness of the office staff, says MedFORCE’s Apter. Today’s software can store and retrieve documents and track shipments and paperwork with technologies like barcoding.
Brian Williams, marketing manager for Computer Applications Unlimited says, “CAU’s flagship software features third-party HME billing and real-time inventory tracking. Solution/One HME includes integrated retail and collections, automated ABN processing, free live Web updates, electronic claims transmissions directly from your computer to the payer’s.”
According to Metridoc, what could be easier than putting documents in a scanner, pushing a button and walking away? Add the Metridoc RemitDATA Processing Plug-In to automate Medicare EOB and DMERC/DMAC review forms. The system doesn’t just store images of documents — it takes the labor out of filing and retrieving. “Metridoc® brings to the HME provider superior technology that is reasonably priced. The system pays for itself,” says Brian M. O’Neil, president/CEO.
Resolution: Train employees.
The biggest investment in any company is its employees, but training those employees doesn’t have to drain the pocketbook. Think you don’t have time for companywide training seminars on the latest protocols for reimbursement? The latest software programs help companies develop materials for virtual training quickly.
Gaylene Gailliford, training, design and development manager at Apria Healthcare, Lake Forest, Calif., uses Eedo Knowledgeware’s ForceTen™ Learning Content Management System. Because the company must deliver training materials that meet regulatory requirements while keeping pace with the market, Galliford needed a system that made a quick turnaround possible. “We needed better development tools that would streamline our workflow process, provide reusability and speed the development cycle,” she says.
“We needed to rapidly create course materials and get them out to our front-line workers quickly and easily. Delivering Web-based learning modules through Eedo’s ForceTen system gives us the ability to modify content as the business demands,” Galliford continues.
The new system gives Apria employees access to online courses, which reduces the need for classroom training and distance learning materials, says Galliford. In addition, ForceTen, which supports a large number of users, allows the company to track and report test scores as well as get materials up and running in a day.
Resolution: Learn From Colleagues.
Are you curious to know what other companies deem important when it comes analyzing and tracking business data but you are afraid to ask? Look no further!
According to Spencer Kay, president of Fastrack, “One of the many benefits of Fastrack’s use of the Microsoft SQL database and open-environment approach is the unrestricted access clients have to their data. This allows providers to write custom reports utilizing the Crystal Report Writer. Collectively, Fastrack’s clients have developed a substantial number of very valuable reports. It became apparent to us that if we shared these reports with our clients, it would be helpful in managing their business.” Fastrack believes that this sharing of reports will provide new insights for providers as they will have an opportunity to learn what indicators other companies deem important to analyze and track. The service also can save time by eliminating the need to develop reports that someone else has already created.