AAHomecare urging providers to embrace the technology
by Tom Ryan

Decades of advancements in health care have led people across the globe to expect continued innovation to improve the effectiveness, quality, efficiency and safety of their care. Professionals at thousands of home medical equipment (HME) providers, manufacturers and distributors are helping meet that challenge by delivering better service, embracing new technologies, and creating or improving products that allow seniors and individuals with disabilities and chronic conditions to remain in their homes and communities.  

From the high level of clinical expertise employed to take care of oxygen users and individuals on ventilators to the training needed to properly fit patients for complex rehabilitation wheelchairs, the HME industry is full of individuals who must keep growing professionally. HME manufacturers are constantly innovating to deliver products that allow better outcomes and a higher quality of life for the people who depend on them.

As with every other part of the health care continuum, it’s critical that this industry continues to embrace new practices and approaches to better serve patients and to increase efficiencies in the face of reimbursement pressures and tight margins.

One area that the industry has been slow to innovate in is the order process for HME. There are opportunities to streamline the order process, save time and money, and better serve patients by accelerating the use of e-prescribing.

The benefits of e-prescribing are clear. The current state of the referral process, often kicked off with a fax or a phone call, has the potential to frustrate patients, providers and physicians alike. Errors or missing documentation can delay delivery and extend hospital stays. Days and weeks can elapse while a provider is trying to get one more piece of information from a physician’s office before submitting a claim. No one wants to chase down paperwork. 

Electronic forms have the advantage of helping guide prescribers to include all necessary information, which not only speeds up the process but also helps reduce denials and improper payments. Record storage and retrieval are significantly improved. Systems can adapt to different requirements from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance payers. The status of an order can be easily tracked. There’s less need for guesswork or follow-up calls from either the physician’s office or the HME provider. 

Taken together, the benefits of e-prescribing mean that clinicians and HME providers can serve patients more quickly, more efficiently and more accurately.

So, what’s holding up more widespread adoption of e-prescribing for HME? 

There are a variety of reasons, but one major factor is that the prescribers are the ones who must choose to implement it—which means an investment in time and training. HME providers share that
same burden, along with paying for these services. And, until e-prescribing for HME reaches a high rate of adoption on the prescriber side, providers will find themselves having to support the current fax-and-phone-dependent approach as well as e-prescribing platforms. 

Recommendations for Adoption

At a recent panel discussion between HME stakeholders and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare) urged CMS to become more involved in working with e-prescribing vendors and setting policy to encourage wider use of the practice, including ensuring that CMS-created clinical data elements are incorporated into these platforms. Industry stakeholders told CMS that providing incentives to increase the use of e-prescribing by physicians would go a long way toward encouraging adoption.

AAHomecare is monitoring this space through a small group of members using e-prescribing systems, convening quarterly to compare experiences and discuss
avenues to adoption. The organization has met with CMS to share industry perspectives on the challenges and opportunities of e-prescribing. 

The HME sector is currently supported by three leading e-prescribing platforms: Parachute Health, DMEhub and GoScripts. We’re fortunate to have a diverse set of experienced companies competing to serve the industry, giving providers options on price, functionality, customer service and the ability to drive use by physicians. There is a wealth of health care information technology expertise and familiarity with the HME industry in this group of companies.

If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind. I believe that’s true in almost every aspect of business—and I know it’s the case in this business. In an era where people have more computing power in their smartphones than super computers had in the 1980s, it’s time to phase out the fax machine and take advantage of the benefits of e-prescribing. 

AAHomecare is committed to helping accelerate widespread adoption of e-prescribing in 2020 through engagement with CMS and other HME stakeholders, and by continuing to promote the concept throughout our industry. Staying in place won’t cut it; we need to move forward with e-prescribing.

Tom Ryan is president and CEO of the American Association for Homecare. Visit aahomecare.org.