The pandemic has changed how we look at employment in the United States in a multitude of ways. Many of us now “telecommute” to work, which opens up the opportunity to live farther from the office than ever before. Young people have new and different considerations and priorities when it comes to accepting a job. And of course, there’s the fact that it is increasingly more difficult to recruit and retain good long-term employees. Complicating these issues specifically in our industry are the pesky and sometimes misunderstood background check requirements.
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.
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.
Sentinel – noun – “A soldier or guard whose job is to stand and keep watch”
Sentinel – verb –"To watch over, stand guard, or protect some place, person, or area”
In medical industries, sentinel events are defined as “unanticipated events or occurrences resulting in death or serious injury to a patient; not related to the patient’s illness, but related to the medical equipment, supplies, or care being provided." For the purposes of our discussion here, “adverse events” and “sentinel events” are one in the same.
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.
As the world slowly but surely returns to normal, surveyors will take to the road once again to visit durable medical equipment organizations across the United States. For several months CMS suspended the accreditation process. On August 12, 2020, CMS gave the approval to resume surveys both onsite and virtual visits (with a follow up onsite visit), or a combination of onsite and virtual survey. With these new guidelines, CMS and the accrediting bodies are beginning to resume surveys with slightly revised procedures and protocols.
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
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.
Nobody wants to have a customer complain about any aspect of their business. Complaints are negative feedback, indicative of an unhappy customer, and generally a bad thing. They can be harsh or mild, constructive or destructive, fair or unfair, deserved or not deserved. But at the core of any customer complaint, there is feedback about a customer experience, or at least their perception of that experience. And this information and feedback can be a treasure trove of information to use to improve the customer experience, your internal processes, and how your organization does business.