Those of us who have been in the DME industry for enough years remember when every DME organization in the country had a storage room full of vertical files and/or bank boxes full of old patient records. The boxes were stored in piles, often piled up to the ceiling. Usually there were labels or writing on the boxes—something like “April 1987-January 1988” or “1990—A-L”. The boxes and filing cabinets were full of manila and Pend-a-flex folders labeled with patient names and chock full of medical records, billing information, social security numbers, dates of birth, and enough demographic information to make a telemarketer’s day.
Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of DME owners, managers, and staff more than the Office of the Inspector General (the “OIG”). The fear is perhaps deserved by an extremely small handful of industry people. The vast majority of our industry rank and file have nothing to fear from this sometimes maligned and misunderstood government agency.
Many durable medical equipment company employees equate “OSHA” with those plasticized posters typically hung in a breakroom or kitchen in the organization. Training requirements by both accreditation standards and OSHA itself have gone a long way to educating employees about the various OSHA mandated requirements and led to a better understanding of OSHA. This in turn has led to better adherence to the rules and regulations and ultimately to a safer workplace.
Imagine how hard it would be to adequately assess whether a person could do some specific task (such as teach school, perform surgery, re-wire a house’s electrical system, or build a bridge) without actually observing them doing that task. We hire employees based on applications and resumes, we evaluate their performance in a job by checking their attendance record to insure they show up to work on time, and we monitor a delivery person’s driver’s license or a clinician’s clinical license to make sure they haven’t expired or been revoked. But no tool works as well to assess a person’s ability to do their job as well as actually watching them do their job. Competency assessments are an integral part of the evaluative process and some would say, THE most important part of that process. If you are hiring a marksman for their ability to hit a target, at some point, you’re going to go out into the field and say “Show me what you’ve got!”
Surveyors for all the accrediting organizations are back on the road now, surveying up a storm and working to catch up the backlog of new customers and ongoing customers who were scheduled for survey in that March to July 2020 time period. It’s good to be back doing what we love, even with some accommodations and new processes in place.
A phrase we’re hearing a lot through this crisis and pandemic is “new normal”. As in, there’s a new normal out there that involves social distancing, wearing masks, working from home, restaurants and non-essential businesses closed or working limited hours, and on and on and on. Every person has had some aspect of their life changed in sometimes small, sometimes profound ways. Of course, this applies to medical equipment providers as much as anyone else.
On a recent survey, I was chatting with the staff member who was responsible for cleaning and disinfecting the rental medical equipment. This particular organization had traditional DME patients, but also serviced a Hospice contract, so the equipment flowed mightily through the warehouse’s clean, dirty, and waiting to be repaired areas. As I was asking him about the cleaners and disinfectants he used, I noticed a poster above his workbench. It was one of those pithy and ubiquitous “keep calm” sayings: “KEEP CALM & MAINTAIN CLEANLINESS.” He smiled and shrugged when he saw me eyeing the poster. This staff member took his responsibility very seriously and was doing an excellent job. His paperwork and technique were both very good, his workspace was orderly and clean, and he understood the underlying reasons it was so important to clean equipment properly for staff safety as well as patient safety.
New Year’s Day --with its resolutions, new beginnings, and fresh start attitude-- is a perfect time of year to reflect on continuous improvement and making ourselves better as not only individuals, but as companies set up to serve the public and our customers. It is also a good time to review ways to improve our bottom line, our operational efficiencies, our general attitude, and our business practices. This sometimes requires revisiting mistakes from our past, things we did wrong, and looking at how we’ve improved them. Deficiencies from our past surveys are certainly a worthwhile thing to look at it in an effort to improve.
Many in the home medical equipment industry equate policy manuals to their accreditation inspections. And of course, these bulky tomes are certainly a large part of the accreditation and survey experience for every DME. Policy manuals serve as the road map for how work gets done within an organization, a set of rules for the organization, and the document that defines the structure, function, and philosophy of the organization. Let’s look at what a policy manual should contain and how it impacts not only accreditation, but also the overall day-to-day operation of an organization.
Topics: Employee Training, HIPAA, Security, Personnel Files, Quality Improvement, Billing, Renewing Accreditation, Quality Standards, HQAA Accreditation, HME Accreditation Requirements, Patient File Requirements, Compliance, Patient Privacy, Clinical Practice Guidelines, Materials Management, Avoiding Deficiencies, CMS, Complaint Process, Quality Care, Showroom, Retail, Delivery, Clinical Respiratory Services, Oxygen, Warehouse, Safety Officer, Competence, Customer Service, Disaster Preparedness, Emergencies, Business Practices, Marketing
Topics: Quality, Employee Training, HIPAA, Personnel Files, Quality Improvement, Billing, Quality Standards, Patient File Requirements, Compliance, Patient Privacy, Process Improvement, Materials Management, Avoiding Deficiencies, Showroom, Retail, Delivery, Warehouse, Safety Officer