Durable medical equipment (DME) is often life-changing for patients, but getting it to them can be an onerous process. Here are five things you can do in your practice to make it easier.
1. Apply Lean principles. Lean principles for achieving efficiency and effectiveness are commonly used in the corporate world. When Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center applied several Lean methods to DME ordering, the process improved significantly. The group’s median time between receiving DME requests and completing them fell from 50 days to three days. The median time staff spent on each request fell from 14 minutes to nine minutes, leading to a cost savings of $11,000 a year.1
2. Develop a staff expert. Some tasks in a medical practice are done better when they’re spread out across many staff members. But DME ordering is one that’s usually more efficient when it’s funneled through one or two staff members who already have experience and expertise, or can gain it quickly. The regulations are complex, and DME orders can vary a lot from one to the next. Having someone who knows all the rules and has done many orders in the past can keep everyone from heading down frustrating dead ends.
3. Reverse the process. For many practices the default process is for the physician to ready the DME order and then pass it off to staff for fulfillment. But if you have an established staff expert, it’s better to reverse it, having the staff member ready the order based on the physician’s documentation, and then route it to the physician to co-sign before sending it.
4. Standardize documentation. For some DME orders, documentation is straightforward. For others (such as hospital beds, wheelchairs, and gel overlays) it’s not. Developing standardized DME documentation templates of the information required in progress notes for those items can help.
5. Standardize ordering. It’s also helpful to have DME ordering templates that prompt you to enter the required elements. There’s variation from one type of equipment to the next, but some of the most common required elements include: a description of the equipment, the quantity required, the anticipated length of need, the diagnosis and ICD-10 code, the patient’s most recent height and weight, and the patient’s personal information (name, date of birth, home address, insurance company, and member number).
1. Fields E, Neogi S, Schoettker PJ, Lail J. Using Lean methodologies to streamline processing of requests for durable medical equipment and supplies for children with complex conditions. Healthc. 2018;6(4):245-252.
Read the full FPM article: “Durable Medical Equipment: A Streamlined Approach.”
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