Savvy Software Strategies
Outside forces such as competitive bidding and a flood of audits make it imperative that HME/DME providers embrace business technology and software tools to boost efficiency and maximize profits. However, the industry still lags behind many others on the technology front.
In fact, as a whole the health care market’s investment in technology—around 3 percent of revenue—tends to be low compared to the average among other industries—between 6 and 7 percent—says Spencer Kay, president and CEO of Fastrack Health Care Systems, a technology supplier to the HME/DME industry. “As a result, more health care providers are inefficient and will have difficulty competing and surviving as reimbursement rates continue to decline.”
Kay points to Federal Express and UPS as examples of companies that dominate their field because of investments in technology—an example more HME companies should follow. The use of advanced technology is imperative in today’s world, he contends. Among the key advanced technologies available for HME/DME providers he lists mobile computing, an Internet portal and e-commerce storefront, bar coding for warehouse and delivery automation, document storage, IVR (interactive voice response) automated patient contact systems, integration with third-party applications and optimized routing of delivery vehicles.
Automation is an important tool as providers adjust their business to the new realities of competitive bidding, lower reimbursements, frequent audits and regulatory change, agrees Chris Watson, chief marketing officer of technology supplier Brightree. “Now is not the time to back away from investing in technology,” she says. “Every provider, from a national company to a smaller, specialized provider, needs to take a look at how technology innovations can improve efficiencies, help them generate new revenue and maximize compliance.”
However, automation is not a cure-all, and sometimes implementing a software system can uncover underlying problems in a business, according to Kent Barnes, director of marketing for technology supplier Team DME!. “A lot of HME/DME providers implement software expecting it to solve all their problems,” he says. “It has been said that technology is a lot like medicine; it has side effects that only show up after you have purchased and taken the medicine.”