Closing the gap between delivery and billing is a big challenge for home medical equipment (HME) businesses.
Traditionally, vital information, including order verification, inventory reconciliation and compliance documentation, is collected and forwarded hours or even several days after delivery is complete. Post-delivery processing increases the time to billing, and the lag time can increase the possibility of errors.
Ideally, billing would begin upon delivery to the client. If order validation, compliance documentation and inventory reconciliation occur in real time, at the point of delivery, billing information is ready to go.
Unfortunately, this rarely happens. Most HME providers are using outdated or simplified software that doesn’t provide the technology they need to close the delivery-to-billing gap.
This lack of technology means that billing takes longer to start, and claims are more frequently denied due to lack of information and/or incorrect information. This can result in the following errors:
- Missing or incomplete documentation causes late filing and more write-offs—When a delivery is made, the documentation must be airtight. Of course, most drivers aren’t thinking about billing; they are thinking about the next delivery. This means they may provide the billing department with missing or incomplete documentation. Documentation must be complete and correct before billing can begin, creating the need for delivery drivers to return to the patient, sometimes numerous times, to gather missing forms and/or correct mistakes.
- Serial number errors can cause denials—This is a simple mistake that happens every day. The driver writes down the serial number of the item they delivered. But because they are in a hurry, they write “7” instead of “5.” Or the driver has messy writing, and the billing team reads “7” instead of “2.” The room for error is huge, and the consequence is a denied claim. Such a small mistake can mean the difference between getting paid and getting denied.
- Drivers take too much time getting delivery documents to billers—Drivers are hired to drive. They don’t consider billing as part of their job description, which is why it can be so difficult to wrangle delivery documents from them. Documents can go missing or simply not be submitted to the office until days after a device is delivered. Sometimes, during the rush of a workday, documents get put in pockets or stuffed between seats, causing even longer delays in filing claims.
- Items are not electronically logged or properly documented—A driver may have multiple items to deliver to one address, and without electronic logging and documentation, each individual item is an opportunity to make a mistake that will delay invoicing and payment. The driver may get four out of five documents correct, but the fifth item cannot be reimbursed until all documentation is perfect.
The bottom line is when billing does not begin at the point of delivery, the process is already compromised. Paper-based documentation systems are outdated and can undermine an HME provider’s bottom line. In today’s HME business atmosphere, the margins no longer exist to support slow, inaccurate, paper-based delivery systems.
Using Technology to Close the Delivery-to-Billing Gap
HME businesses should ensure their delivery systems include technology that will decrease time to billing. Delivery verification and billing should be virtually simultaneous.
The benefits of a technology-driven delivery process include:
- Fewer write-offs due to missing information and past-timely filing
- Fewer denials with automatic serial number reconciliation
- Faster billing because the synchronized system allows instantaneous transfer of delivery documents from drivers to billers
- Faster audit response because every delivery is electronically logged and properly documented
Technology can improve workflow across various corners of an HME business. HME providers who use the latest technology systems will close the delivery-to-billing lag time and improve their margins. Software that offers an integrated billing system impacts every department, streamlining operations and improving efficiency across the business. For example:
- Drivers—If the driver uses an automated system at delivery, there is no need to write down serial numbers and barcodes. Documents can be confirmed, time stamped and signed electronically. If everything is transmitted electronically on-site at the point of delivery, no paper documents need to be scanned upon return, and no paperwork needs to be completed at the office.
- Billers—If the driver initiates billing at the point of delivery, the biller doesn’t have to wait to receive essential paperwork, which is often prone to incorrect or missing information. If this process occurs upon delivery, the biller has access to the necessary delivery confirmation, required signatures and serial numbers so they can immediately initiate invoicing.
- Warehouse managers—Warehouse managers will benefit from electronic delivery route mapping, which automatically optimizes routes. Technology-driven delivery processes are tied to inventory control, which provide the warehouse with automatically updated inventory totals after delivery. Using scanners, inventory is always updated in real time on trucks, in warehouses and at the store.
- Customer service representatives—Finally, the people most often fielding calls from frustrated or inquisitive customers can also have access to real-time information, including date and time of delivery and the bill generated at that point. Customer service representatives often waste far too much time trying to track down drivers for the updates customers request.
When most of the action occurs at the point of delivery with easy, automated software, there is little room for error or costly mistakes. In this way, technology is the key to closing the delivery-to-billing gap and improving margins for HME providers.