The right training can boost compliance & prevent turnover
by Mike McKillip

One of the necessities in the durable medical equipment (DME) industry is providing continuing education and training programs for your employees to ensure you are meeting educational requirements.     

Mandates from departments, agencies or commissions are not the only reason to offer continuing education to your employees. Having well-trained, knowledgeable employees helps you distinguish yourself from the competition, and can help reduce turnover and therefore costs.

From the Top

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) states in the Federal Register that it has “identified seven fundamental elements applicable to an effective compliance program.” One of these elements is “conducting effective training and education,” which it further clarifies by describing it as “the development and implementation of regular, effective education and training for all affected employees.”

The OIG also states that education and training programs should be detailed and comprehensive. It makes it clear that DME providers are required to deliver education, although it does not specify the exact means necessary to fulfill this mandate.

Enter the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). As the agency that protects employees from on-the-job hazards, it has a more focused approach as to what your employees should learn while on the job. Infection control, emergency preparedness and safety in the workplace are just a few topics OSHA requires you to include in employee training.

Accreditation is essential, not only because of rules set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), but also because most—if not all—of the payers and referral sources you work with require it. Accreditation tells people that you comply with industry standards, have solid processes, and meet specific requirements. Your accreditation agency will be able to provide details on what educational content it requires.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services adds to the education requirement, saying you must be knowledgeable and compliant about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Up to this point, the focus has been on regulatory compliance. Now, let’s add professional credentialing into the mix.

Professional Credentialing

The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC), National Registry of Rehabilitation Technology Suppliers (NRRTS) and Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) are just a few of the many industry organizations that have specific guidelines for education. From respiratory therapists (RTs) to assistive technology professionals (ATPs), employees must have continuing education to be licensed.

These professionals are a major part of the lifeblood of your business. Without their technical expertise and the benefit of their current licensure or credentials, your company would not be reimbursed for certain equipment and services. Therefore, it is important to ensure that your RTs, ATPs, and other clinicians are educated with the most up-to-date information and meet the most recent requirements.

Set Yourself Apart

Successful businesses realize that employee education isn’t just a set of mandates. Continuing education programs set
them apart from their competition by attracting and supporting well-trained, knowledgeable employees.

Successful businesses also understand other components that can help their businesses thrive in today’s fiscal environment.

One of the hidden costs of doing business is the high turnover rate in the homecare industry; it has been reported to be as high as 63% per year for home health care workers. By comparison, the total turnover rate across all industries in the United States last year was only 15.7%.

A high turnover rate comes at a significant cost to your bottom line. The tangible hits include hiring temporary workers, overtime and lowered productivity, as well as the costs associated with advertising, interviewing, hiring, training, etc. Experts estimate it costs about twice an employee’s salary to find and train their replacement. This doesn’t take into account the intangible costs to your business, such as lower employee morale, a potentially unfocused workforce and time-consuming watercooler conversations.

A Louis Harris poll reported that retention rates are two-thirds higher among companies that provide training opportunities. Career development is considered the No. 1 factor in getting employees to stay.

Continuing education can help employees hone their skills and also help companies retain better, more qualified personnel. Today’s learning management systems are more mobile, interactive and accessible than the books they have replaced. Today, education is just a few clicks away on a computer or mobile device.

Some advantages of using a continuing education program include:

Educating employees about their duties, responsibilities, company policies and corporate culture is a great way to boost confidence and morale.

Unify your employees by using a common goal. You may be surprised how competitive your employees can get when offered a prize for receiving the best test score on coursework or being the first to complete the task.

Workers leave companies for various reasons; they get sick, take vacations and get into accidents. Cross-training gives your employees additional corporate familiarity and allows job responsibilities to be covered in the event of a crisis.

Implementing an Education Program

You will likely have a mix of topics and content to offer employees. Creating excitement with your staff is imperative in getting your educational program up and running. Let your employees know this program is for them. They will gain more knowledge and utilize that information to be more effective in their corporate role and to grow personally.

Today’s technology allows people to take online classes when it fits their schedule by using a mix of recorded and live online videos, usually combined with reading material and papers or reports to hand in. A learning management system (LMS) is just one way to manage your continuing education program.

A LMS will also save your compliance or human resources department time by not requiring them to manually enter information and coursework activity. Continuous reporting of coursework makes auditing, reporting and course selection easy.

There are many reasons to facilitate a continuing education program in your company—from complying with mandatory requirements to reducing costs by reducing turnover, and more. Providing education and training opportunities for your employees is in your hands, and can help empower everyone in the company to provide “above and beyond” customer service and industry knowledge to your customers—and give them another reason to keep coming back to your company for their DME needs.

Mike McKillip has over 20 years’ experience in the home medical equipment group purchasing organization industry. He is now with Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC), where he is responsible for the direction, content origination, and execution of HealthTrainU, the ACHC learning management system.