Image of person in white lab coat with stethoscope around their neck looking at and touching an ipad.
Entering a new era for digital prescriptions
by Hannah Wolfson

The home medical equipment (HME) industry has been pushing providers toward e-prescribing for more than a year, arguing that it not only increases efficiency and reduces mistakes but will also help provide the documentation and data providers need to show their true value.

To learn more, HomeCare checked in with David Gelbard, founder and CEO of Parachute, one of the largest e-prescribing platforms for durable medical equipment (DME), to see what’s new in the field.

HomeCare: Has the industry’s approach to e-prescribing changed at all? Are you still in a basic educational phase?

Gelbard: Today these suppliers and providers are using e-prescribing to transform their business, and it has now become the new basis of competition. What we see in the market now, which is different, is that before, it used to be the activity of chasing documentation as the primary driver of competition—who can do that the most effectively and then deliver wins. But now we’re seeing DME providers competing on service in a way that I really haven’t seen in the eight years I’ve been running the company, where people are asking the question: How fast am I responding to clinicians? Am I fulfilling orders at a rate that’s greater than the market average? What are the other technology workflows that we should be digitizing to transform the clinician experience?

There’s no longer this question about what is digital going to do for my business. It’s now widely accepted as the way forward. We’re seeing a bifurcation between those who not only get the value of it but are also really figuring out how to implement the software, because that’s where the art comes in and that’s where the new competition is. Can you create the same digital ordering experience that people have come to expect in their day-to-day lives, when they’re ordering soap, clothing, food, etc.

HomeCare: How did you get into this business?

Gelbard: I founded Parachute eight years ago because when my dad was leaving a hospital after they saved his life. After his back surgery, they didn’t send a walker to his house, and when he was walking from the bed to the bathroom without a walker, he fell down and re-injured himself. When I called the hospital, I said, ‘You did the really hard part, you saved my dad’s life, but you didn’t send a walker and he fell.’ And they said, ‘Well, we faxed it to this supplier.’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean fax?’ I then called the supplier and he said, ‘Oh, we received a fax, but it was missing some data so we couldn’t fulfill the order.’ And I
was so bothered by that, we wound up starting Parachute to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Back then it was a question of ‘Can this work?’ Now we’re far beyond that point. It’s not only working, but it’s working at some of the most prominent health systems across the United States. And now it’s a question of ‘How do I enable a digital experience?’ There’s no question anymore along the lines of, will this get delivered or is this covered or will the supplier respond to me in a timely way. Those things are now table stakes, and we’ve elevated the competition to be about customer service and how to differentiate yourself using technology.

HomeCare: The industry is broadly supporting it, right?

Gelbard: We have frequent calls with the American Association for Homecare, VGM, all the industry billing systems. I think everyone recognizes that a healthy DME ecosystem means no more fax machine. Trying to get payers to pay more is an unlikely prospect, so the real path forward is to figure out ways to do business more profitably. And manual paper chasing is not what makes humans uniquely valuable. Automating the aspects of the job that are just tedious takes away from what’s uniquely human, which is having emotions, having empathy, looking at the big picture—solving something on a one-off basis as you recognize the patient is in need. That’s the stuff that’s uniquely human that a software program can never do. And I think that, especially with labor shortages across the U.S., you want humans doing what humans are built to do, which is caring for people, not chasing paper.

HomeCare: Is there still education to do on the clinician side?

Gelbard: We see clinicians jumping on board at the largest health systems in the country, at nursing homes, home health agencies, doctor’s offices. No one is excited about a fax ordering process anymore. The market has turned—we’ve now seen 200,000 prescribers order on Parachute. We’ve seen mass adoption at this point of the platform and it’s accelerating every year. The next route is to move the rest of the market onto the platform region by region. Some regions have picked up faster than others, and in some states more than half the state is using e-prescribing.

HomeCare: So given all the success, what keeps you up at night?

Gelbard: There are so many suppliers and providers who want to go digital and not everyone is tech-savvy enough to deploy a digital solution on their own, and when we move into certain markets we notice that some groups need more support in that digital conversion process. So, Parachute has been figuring out ways to help the other end of the bell curve learn how to adopt digitally. And for me after seeing it work, I want to accelerate that to the rest of the market.

I think that’s the main thing now—ensuring that everyone who wants to participate in e-prescribing, which is most of the market, gets the support they need to make that digital transition. Because at the end of the day, it helps patients.

HomeCare: What’s your wish list from a regulatory standpoint?

Gelbard: I think the next step is how does the government come in and ensure that the move to e-prescribing is the default way for companies. From our conversations, removing the fax machine from the process of something as critical as ordering home oxygen has bipartisan support. It’s an easy win—it’s one of those no-brainers, so it’s easy to push forward

Hannah Wolfson is editor of HomeCare Media.