Getting Accredited and Doing It Now
While the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act (MMA) dictates that the Secretary of Health and Human Services develop quality standards for the durable medical equipment industry, the language of the law leaves interpretation wide open. Given the large number of DME providers and related organizations that must comply, it is expected that all accrediting organizations currently serving this industry will be needed to meet the requirement.
It will be up to the provider to choose an accrediting organization and to develop a strategy for becoming accredited within a relatively short period of time.
Fundamentally, accreditation is designed to establish a culture within a company that promotes sound business policies, best service and care practices, commitment to ethical conduct and methodologies that validate continual operational improvements with the overall goal of improved professionalism.
Accreditation standards provide a framework of key organizational functions, which help management effectively decrease organizational risk; create systems and processes; enhance positive business results; and deliver quality services to consumers. In the future, standards for DME accrediting organizations will incorporate all new requirements outlined by the government as the language in Medicare rules will spell out.
When and how to choose
So when should a company begin this process? Timing is tricky until HHS announces an implementation year. If determination is for a three-year implementation, providers should be making a choice of an accrediting organization in the near future. Preparation time for a small provider striving for first-time accreditation often is one year or more. Thus, identifying an accrediting organization and developing a strategy for preparation should be accomplished by early 2005. The later a company waits to seek scheduling by an accrediting organization, the later the actual survey visit will be scheduled. If HHS decides on a five-year implementation, then providers would have additional time for developing strategies.
How do you pick the right accrediting organization for your company? Consider the following questions when making your choice:
Is there a comparable level of expertise with each of the accrediting organizations for DME?
Are the standards relevant and specific to the providers' services mix? Is there a match; are the standards understandable?
Does the accrediting organization offer good customer services, both before and after the survey?