IT is key for HME

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The importance of information technology in today’s HME market cannot be overstated. Many of the initiatives underway in the acute care sector rely on IT heavily, including electronic health records, clinical decision support, interoperability and various business management functions. Embracing these technological advancements is essential for the HME provider’s success in working with acute care providers in the future, ensuring a level playing field, technology vendors say.

“The proper use of technology can provide many of the advantages to a small provider that the larger ones realize,” said Spencer Kay, president of Plainview, N.Y.-based Fastrack Healthcare Systems. “The cost of technology has never been lower and the return on investment never greater. Providers utilizing technology are reporting substantial productivity gains as a result of being able to accomplish more without increasing staff and in many cases with less staff.”

To maximize their IT potential, HME providers need to investigate the products vendors are offering, Kay said. Portfolios have grown to include applications for warehouse operation, delivery operations and point-of-care systems that run on mobile devices, along with data mining tools, document storage, electronic audit response capabilities, interactive voice response systems and bar coding.

“Since technology is changing so rapidly the provider also needs to understand the vendor’s commitment to research and development in this area,” Kay said.

Whatever IT capabilities an HME provider seeks, it must start with a good foundation, says Jay Williams, national sales manager,  western region, for Spartanburg, S.C.-based QS/1 Data Systems.

“By good foundation I mean that from day one, inventory control is a primary concern,” he said. “That prevents duplicate items from ‘sneaking’ into their inventory. They also need to establish minimums and maximums for each item and then utilize automated purchase orders to create new orders.”

Because a provider’s money is tied up in inventory and accounts receivable, these are the areas that are best served by an optimal IT system, Williams said.

Roxie Murray, vice president of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Jaysec, adds that the software should have a pricing structure that is user based, not transaction or volume incentivized.

“At the end of the day, it is still supposed to be the patient’s choice,” she said. “Utilizing streamlining technology contributes to great service and more importantly reflects the effort to exceptional patient care.”

Whatever system you choose, keep integration and interconnectivity in mind, says Chris Watson, chief marketing officer for Atlanta-based Brightree.

“We’re investing heavily in an underlying technology platform and partnerships to deliver a spectrum of capabilities, from customer service and billing to therapy compliance, purchasing and delivery, all on a single, easy-to-use platform,” she said. “Putting all the data in one place, providing visibility to performance, and enabling users to do their jobs efficiently are mission-critical to adapting to industry change.