Since the early days of the Covid pandemic, surveyors have been avoiding “home visits”—those interactive ride alongs where the surveyor goes with a delivery person or clinician to visit a patient/customer in their home. This is for the safety of the staff members, the surveyor, and most important, the patient/customer. Although our process has changed a bit over the last few months, the surveyors are still not going out on home visits and are not likely to start that process up again any time soon.
We’ve talked about retail showrooms before, but in the several years since we’ve covered the topic, retail has made a triumphant resurgence. The DME retail showroom’s amazing comeback is a product of a perfect storm of factors in the industry. Certainly, declining reimbursement and limitations to coverage for DME products and services is at least partially responsible. The fact that Baby Boomers are retiring and becoming eligible for Medicare is also a factor. Retirees today –compared to retirees of a decade or so ago—are tech savvy computer users who are comfortable shopping on line and also somewhat conditioned to paying for larger portions of their healthcare out of pocket. The bad news for local DME’s is that they are tech savvy and capable of shopping on Amazon-like platforms. The good news for local DME’s is that they are willing to pay more out of pocket for healthcare. Retail provides a “hedge” for your organization. If someone wants the traditional “deliver it and bill my insurance” DME model, you can do it. But you also have a showroom and are prepared to deal in cash.
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!”
Because of the nature of our work, the durable medical equipment industry did not close our doors, shelter in place, or shut down for the Covid-19 Pandemic. We did, however, change the way we do business in many ways. Some of these changes will undoubtedly get back to normal as our nation and the world climb out of the pandemic. And of course, many of these changes will become the “new normal” and are destined to remain changed forever. At the time this blog article is being written, HQAA is carefully monitoring the industry as well as law and regulation and CMS policy to determine how accreditation surveys will be performed in both the short and long term. More on that in the weeks to come.
Topics: Employee Training, HIPAA, HME Accreditation Requirements, Patient File Requirements, Materials Management, Showroom, Retail, Delivery, Oxygen, Warehouse, Customer Service, Business Practices, Marketing, Infection Control
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.
Here we are several months into the pandemic. It appears perhaps the worst is behind us and the world is slowly starting to re-open. For many, the novelty of sheltering in place has worn off and folks are ready to get back to work. In the durable medical equipment industry, work has continued as our companies have been considered “essential services” and for the most part, stayed open and done business during and despite Covid-19.
A few years back, at 5:00am Saturday during the coldest February Northern Minnesota had seen in decades, a longtime home care patient’s oxygen concentrator failed. The patient’s wife retrieved an E cylinder that was for back up from the guest bedroom and proceeded to try to open the gauge. Her husband—the patient—tried as well but neither could get the tank to open. The couple was a little panicky because the patient had been using oxygen continuously for over a year with only a few moments here and there off oxygen. Regular delivery for portable cylinders was Monday, and they were down to two small portable cylinders with a total of about one hour of oxygen combined.
Memorial Day Weekend, the end of the kid’s school year, or the first day of June all mark the beginning of summer for most of us. Sure, scientists will tell you that summer begins with Summer Solstice, around June 21st, the day the Sun is the farthest north; but we all start our summer season based on man-made demarcations and arbitrary dates and times. For many of us, summer means swimming pools, picnics, a long break from school, and of course, summer vacations.
Last month, we looked at fire safety in the DME industry. Safe oxygen storage and fire prevention/safety were mentioned, but not in the detail a subject so important deserves and requires. Handling, providing, storing, processing, and manufacturing oxygen comes with its own unique set of potential hazards and therefore its own set of guidelines and safety measures.