The Power of Automation
by Kimberly Commito

HME companies, both large and small, need to provide patient care efficiently and accurately. Doing so supports compliance standards that are now in place, boosts customer satisfaction and, ultimately, increases cash flow. However, if you rely on even a few manual processes, your workflow is likely to be in need of some added horsepower.

Traditionally, software applications designed for HME providers primarily functioned to help users submit clean claims because clean claims meant faster payment. The data that resulted from the claim submission and reimbursement process was the best measure of workflow competency. One flaw, however, was that the information was available after the fact, so issues could only be addressed once the process was complete and errors or problems were discovered. While this was an improvement over manual systems, the typical HME operation did not function like a well-oiled machine.

Today, the latest software applications offer workflow tools that empower HME providers to proactively gauge competency from the earliest stages of the process. With these tools, users can make adjustments as needed. By monitoring process flow and identifying and correcting bottleneck issues in real time, you can accelerate satisfaction rates with both referral sources and patients. Workflow tools also typically help you monitor billing cycles and productivity, which can fuel-inject your cash flow and put the brakes on extended days sales outstanding (DSO).

When workflow tools are successfully implemented, they can lend insight into productivity via reporting. By monitoring workflow components, such as patient touch points (calls to arrange deliveries, calls to gather accurate and critical patient data to avoid mistakes, etc.), delivery confirmations, inventory turns and claims volumes, you can always have a clear view of all the obstacles that block your path to efficiency and accuracy.

While many HME providers still execute at least some portion of their reports manually, automation can power these functions as well. There are tools that automatically run and distribute reports across organizations, providing information in a timely manner and identifying areas for improvement. Software solutions should also include analytics that allow you to define your metrics and the way in which you would like to monitor them. In addition, comprehensive reporting tools should provide scheduling options for distributing reports and analytics when appropriate so that your staff can concentrate on what is important—driving growth, patient care, referral source satisfaction and cash flow.

Additional power boosters include barcode scanning and real-time inventory management, which work together to offer detailed information about product stock and availability, from order entry through delivery confirmation. Therefore, manual inventory functions, such as phone calls to warehouse staff to ascertain if a product is available are eliminated. With accurate inventory counts, you can order when you need to and avoid tying up cash in unnecessary inventory. You can also keep track of when inventory needs to be moved more effectively, returned to the manufacturer or recalled.

Of course, major changes can be intimidating, but the results are worth the challenge. By injecting your operations with powerful automation processes and eliminating time-wasting manual tasks, your staff will be able to operate efficiently at full throttle with minimal errors, which will clear the way for them to focus on patient care.