Millions of people across the United States use some form of durable medical equipment (DME). For them, DME is a necessity — without it, they could not get around, go about their daily activities, or get relief from the symptoms of their illness.
Advancements in technology have made purchasing DME far easier and more convenient. Today, it’s possible for patients to get wheelchairs, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, and the like without leaving the comfort of their home. All they have to do is place their orders online or over the phone, and the equipment they need will be delivered right to their doorstep.
But that’s not to say that getting DME isn’t completely devoid of issues. The process of obtaining DME still has some kinks that keep patients from getting the high level of care they expect and deserve.
Most of the problems patients experience with DME providers stem from inefficient systems and processes, while some are caused by events and circumstances out of providers’ control. Such problems include:
Problem 1: Service delays
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruptions in the healthcare industry supply chain. According to a report by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General, there have been shortages in personal protective equipment and various DME since the pandemic began. A survey also shows that there have been delivery delays of at least two months for CPAP machines, respiratory assist devices, and oxygen equipment.
But even before the pandemic, there had been many reports of patients not getting their DME on time. Repairs completed beyond the agreed-upon time frame were also common. Such issues impede patients’ access to the DME they need, which can have serious impacts on their health and quality of life.
What DME providers can do: Inefficient workflows are often to blame for service delays, especially if these go unchecked. The first step to ensuring timely service delivery is analyzing your existing workflows to identify what is and isn’t working. This will help you map out the best plan for eliminating errors, bottlenecks, and other inefficiencies from your processes.
Your strategy should also account for the skills and knowledge of your employees. If you assign a task to someone who doesn’t have the appropriate skill set, then it’s very likely that inefficiencies will arise. For instance, you can’t have an accountant troubleshooting a CPAP machine and expect good results. Awareness of each of your employees’ capabilities and matching up the right tasks to the right people will help streamline your operations and, in turn, speed up service delivery.
Problem 2: Poor customer service
Poor customer service from a DME provider is every patient’s nightmare. Being put on hold and shuffled from person to person is frustrating. Even more annoying and dispiriting is going through all that without getting the help or answers they need in the end. When this happens, patients will take their business elsewhere. This will cost you sales and profits as well as tarnish your reputation, which will prevent you from attracting new customers and growing your business.
What DME providers can do: Your patients’ experience with your DME business will be shaped by their interactions with your customer service team. It’s therefore imperative to equip your team with everything they need to deliver the highest quality of service consistently. Provide your staff with ongoing training, focusing on skills such as clear and effective communication, empathy, patience, and adaptability. Your training program should also focus on developing your team’s knowledge of your business’s offerings, processes, and policies. Keeping your client-facing employees updated on these will enable them to answer patient questions efficiently.
Related reading: Optimizing patient care: Laying the groundworkfor a successful CPAP resupply business
Additionally, make sure your customer service specialists have the right tools at their disposal. A customer resource management (CRM) solution is a must-have in any modern DME business. CRM software gives your team easy access to customer data and standardizes customer support workflows. Best-in-class CRM solutions also have a data analytics feature, which provides actionable insights into patient feedback and behavior. This information will enable you to make decisions that will improve patients’ overall experience with your business.
Problem 3: High costs
DME isn’t exactly cheap. Even if a patient has Medicare or private insurance, they may still have to shoulder part of the cost of their equipment. For instance, Medicare Part B beneficiaries still have to pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount, which may be lower than the actual cost of the item they need.
To illustrate, suppose a patient is purchasing a two-wheel walker that costs $200. If the Medicare-approved amount is only $100, the patient will need to pay $120: Medicare will pay $80, while the patient will pay the remaining $20, plus the $100 not covered by Medicare.The same rule applies for repairs and replacement parts.
Some DME providers compound the problem by filing false claims or ordering more expensive equipment in a patient’s name. DME fraud can cost the patient thousands of dollars in higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
What DME providers can do: While you can’t control how much DME costs and how much Medicare and insurance carriers will pay for, you can help your patients avoid financial ruin by being honest and transparent about what you’re charging them. Provide patients with cost estimates. Take the time to explain their bill and insurance coverage to them. Correct any errors in billing, if any, as soon as possible. Don’t charge patients for any medically unnecessary items. Educate them about DME-related scams. These actions will show your patients that you’re looking out for them, and will empower them to make better decisions regarding their healthcare.
Revsuppliance offers quality products and services designed to improve patient care and increase the efficiency of DME providers across Oklahoma. For more information about how we can help your DME business and your patients, schedule a demonstration today.