I imagine it’s the same in other industries—December in DME can be a hectic, scatterbrained race to the finish. (“The finish” in this case being the end of the year). Financially speaking, it’s a time to try to maximize earnings and pad the bottom line, wrapping up billing cycles and completing tasks to prepare financially for the new year. Patient/customers that have met their deductible are anxious trying to consume healthcare before a new deductible cycle begins. December 31st is the end of a quarter, the end of a month, and the end of the year and there’s two major holidays –Christmas and New Year to work around. Staff wants to spend time with their families. And of course, company holiday parties abound.The best way to prepare for the end of the year is to spread out the work associated with closing out the year over several months, not just December. Approach the concept of preparation for the new year as a long term, “big picture” issue and not something that you address the last week of a given year.
We have all experienced the rush to get patient/customers out of the hospital and home for the holidays, but generally, the holiday season (let’s call it the last two weeks of December) is one of the slower periods of time. Doctors and facilities scale back on elective surgeries that often result in the need for hospital beds, home CPM machines, and all manner of mobility devices. While retail experiences the busiest season the year, providers of DMEPOS goods and services are not quite as busy as many of their retail peers.
So, how should a DME prepare for the end of the year and what can be done to alleviate the stress and pressure of rushing through a to do list at the last minute --particularly over the holiday season? Here’s a list of some action items to do in December to both wrap up the previous year and also to get a good head start into the new year as well:
- Review and Adjust Financials: Prepare a current balance sheet to review where you are and so you know how to operate in the next year. Prepare a new, adjusted budget for the new year based on where your financials are in the current year.
- Clean Up Billing: Work diligently to finish up claims submissions by correcting coding and billing errors. Bill all balances, co pays, and any deductibles. Push collections especially in December to maximize your gross revenue in the current year.
- Clean Up The Warehouse: Why not take this opportunity to do a “deep clean” in the equipment storage and processing areas? Not only should you clean the warehouse, the year end is actually a great time to thin out excess or obsolete inventory. Throw out parts that aren’t likely to be useful. Sell off inventory that you don’t use anymore. Consider donating equipment in working condition that you aren’t using. If you donate it by December 31st, it’s a tax write off for the year.
- Audit Human Resource Files: Many companies schedule competency assessment and performance evaluation activities for the anniversary date of when last performed. Some schedule all these for a particular month. Regardless of which system/process you use, now is a good time to check the personnel files to make sure all in service education, license renewal, and competency assessment and evaluations are completed and up to date.
- Fire Drill & Safety Inspection: Check to ensure that you have completed a fire drill during the calendar year and if you haven’t, do it now. Document the drill along with any other emergency preparedness drills or activities. Also document a walk through to check fire extinguishers, first aid kits, exit strategies and signage, and eye wash stations. Be sure all are up to date—some of these products expire.
- Review Insurance, Bank Loans, Lines of Credit: Banking and renewing policies on line is efficient and makes life easier. Unfortunately, it also makes it easy to put payments on “auto pilot” and let them ride. Subscriptions and statements continue to fly across the internet, but it’s much easier to put following up on these tasks on the back burner. Take an hour during December and review insurance policies and all bank loans and lines of credit. Are you current? Should you shop the policies and banking for better rates? Close or consolidate unused accounts to streamline. If you lease your place of business, review the lease and assess if the location is still serving you well.
- Review Licenses and Accreditation: Check to make sure that any state licenses are current and up to date. Ditto your accreditation. Take an extra moment to monitor the websites for your accreditation provider and also any state license entities in case you missed an update communication.
- Review Your Mission Statement and Strategic Plan: Business owners tend to think of these documents as static documents that are conceived when the business is set up. The reality is plans change and the mission statement and strategic plan should be dynamic and can be adjusted as time goes by and plans change.
- Check Your Website & Social Media Accounts: Websites that were beautiful and state of art ten years ago look “clunky” and outdated today. Consider upgrading or refreshing your website. Hopefully, you attend to social media accounts regularly, but they might need checked/updated as well. At a minimum, check the website to make sure it still accurately portrays your product and service lines, address and contact information, and hours of operation.
- Pat Employees (and Self) On the Back: The holidays are about being festive. Throw a holiday party for staff, colleagues, and vendors. Tell everyone how much you appreciate them. Gift cards and bonuses are very nice, but don’t forget to throw a little praise in the direction of everyone who helps your business. Take some time out to introspect on the past year and set goals for next year, too.
The end of the year can be a stressful time. With holidays, family obligations, travel, and all the other excitement in our lives, don’t let the year’s end at work add to the pressure. Use these tips to finish up business in December so you can say “that’s a wrap”.
Here’s wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and best wishes for a joyful and prosperous New Year!