The Bottom Line
Partners in Innovation
There’s no doubt that the way HME businesses operated five years ago (maybe even one year ago) is certainly not the way they operate today. Who would have thought they’d need a full-time compliance person, much less an entire department, five years ago? Who would have thought supply replenishment orders would require asking the Medicare patient “How many of your supplies do you have left?” The level of scrutiny with which claims are audited today would have been nearly unfathomable a few years ago. Coupled with the woes of competitive bidding, these challenges mean businesses may have to reinvent themselves, or at the very least diversify, just to stay afloat.
To diversify successfully, you will need proper talent. Employees today must be more sophisticated and analytical thinkers. That is to say, the manager of the department has to be a genuine leader. So the core group should be able to step it up a notch and look for ways to innovate and be mindful of how to garner additional revenue from existing and alternative payers.
For example, when you are unable to find funding for a patient, where do you turn? Rather than turning the patient away, consider surfing the web to compile a list of alternative funding sources. Foundations, trusts, grants, religious centers, community organizations and nonprofit agencies and associations are but a few places to start your research. Look around your own community to learn more about the various agencies and funds available to support those patients who desperately need the products you offer. For example, the Kellogg Foundation allocates resources for health care needs, particularly promoting children’s nutritional needs and access to quality health care and healthy living conditions.
As you build your database of these alternative funders, you will need to lean on employees who are poised to take on different tasks and objectives. In an article written by Brad Powers, he states “engaging workers as drivers of process changes may seem like it’s slowing things down, particularly in implementing a revolutionary enterprise system. But what’s your alternative? You either pay upfront to get worker ownership and sustainability of changes, or you pay later to get buy-in and overcome resistance. The ride is much smoother when you can have your workers be drivers, not passengers.” This speaks to the importance of using employees to help you restructure and innovate.
The key is finding the right employees to spearhead this innovation. Over the course of the last year I have noticed that, as a general rule, the HME talent pool has not been able to sustain the level of sophistication required to get the job done. This is particularly apparent at the management level. Most HME managers have risen through the ranks and have no real management experience. As dedicated workers, they were able to succeed by understanding the job requirements and outperforming their peers. To manage and lead effectively, however, is a totally different and challenging scenario. A good worker does not make a successful manager. It often takes someone from the outside with a proven managerial track record to influence the kind of change needed in today’s HME operation. Finding the best fit in a manager is truly imperative. If you have to turn to the outside, what should you look for? How do you know if you have the right candidate? If you use an internal candidate, do they possess management skills or potential? Regardless of what you do to secure the right candidate, at the end of the day, it is still a risky proposition until the person proves their worth.