The Bottom Line
Like the housing market, the HME industry feels anxious, tentative, beat up and struggling to make a profit. Not only are audits still common, competitive bidding is at the forefront of nearly every providers’ mind. With such volatility many have turned to alternative sources of revenue such as retail, home accessibility, third-party payer contracts/preferred provider relationships, hospice and more. Simultaneously, they have begun looking inward at ways to increase efficiencies and streamline processes to enhance profitability. While working with many providers this year, I have seen some patterns. With a concerted focus on shoring up the bottom line, many have started to prioritize their internal organization while keeping a close watch on the industry. Let’s take a look at a few of the patterns I found most routinely throughout this past year.
Creatures of Habit—In many HME businesses, staff grows stale by continuing routines whether or not they’re efficient or productive. “Each person is different … with a unique pattern of behaviors, of passions, of yearnings. Each person’s pattern of talents is enduring” writes Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman in First, Break All the Rules. Although habits are hard to break, it can be stifling to the organization when an individual does not embrace change. For example, when a new software solution is implemented, many employees continue using paper logs, sticky notes and spreadsheets. While this is natural at first, if not nipped in the bud duplicate and manual systems prevail, costing unnecessary time and money. In one such company staff decided it was too hard to embrace computer generated delivery tickets, so they continued to utilize handwritten delivery tickets for a year after their new software was implemented. Not only did this promote a lack of control, it also allowed for the loss of undocumented revenue.
The Blame Game—Another problem is when staff blames the computer for what it can’t do rather than learning about its capabilities. This typically arises when staff is unsure of how to use the software, and rather than risk humiliation they excuse themselves by blaming the software. In cases where the software doesn’t actually perform a needed task, staff should contact the vendor. To remedy the blame game as well as the paper proliferation, look for manual processes around the office and devise an automated solution. Engage the software vendor as necessary. The same is true for manual spreadsheets used to track patients.