OCEANPORT, N.J. – A short few months ago, the HME industry was operating in a relatively stable environment, providing great care for patients transitioning to the safety and comfort of their homes. That all changed in mid-March when the virus bomb, COVID-19 (Coronavirus), hit.
As the number of positive COVID-19 cases spiked, the HME industry faced unprecedented challenges in dislocation and disruption. Not only did the demand for personal protective gear for front line workers and ventilators cause supply chain delays, but operating costs surged with the COVID-19 pandemic.
As with most challenges, new opportunities emerged that I believe will benefit the HME industry in the near and long term. In the midst of the turmoil, e-prescribing and telehealth came to the forefront as a means to allow patient/physician interactions to continue without unnecessary health risks, and as a path for a cost effective and safe solution to the “new normal.”
With the broader adoption of e-prescribing and telehealth by the government as well as the healthcare industry, physicians and clinicians now have the capability to provide remote care, electronically order equipment for patients, and virtually monitor outcomes.
e-Prescribe has a chance to change our industry, but we all have to actively participate in driving the adoption of the platforms. The existing e-prescribing platforms focused on servicing the HME industry has an open network that allows prescribers to electronically place orders with HME suppliers quickly and in compliance with HIPAA.
Many prescribers and suppliers who have used these e-prescribing platforms have reported positive results, with a reduction in labor associated with paperwork and with patients receiving their ordered equipment faster. Additionally, because patients do not need to physically visit their physicians to verify continued need of their HME equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic, prescribers began to recognize the ease and efficiency of transmitting ongoing orders. That can be used to document ongoing medical necessity to HME suppliers through an e-prescribing platform.
Notably, telehealth has proven to be an effective and efficient solution to providing patients with care while keeping them safe. Whether through Skype, FaceTime, or other methods, telehealth provides a tremendous benefit for all involved in the health care continuum. Caregivers can provide great care remotely in a highly efficient manner due to less travel time, better troubleshooting, and more frequent check-ins.
As the latest technology advancements prove appropriate for patient care, healthcare insurance companies are beginning to recognize the potential efficiencies and cost savings of telehealth, which hopefully will lead to greater reimbursement for remote patient care provided by healthcare practitioners as well as HME suppliers.
Overall, the adoption of advanced technologies, such as those that make e-prescribing and telehealth possible, will provide the HME industry with the ability to successfully embrace and overcome many new challenges, including those it currently faces due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bill Guidetti is chair of the Executive Committee of the American Association for Homecare. He also serves as president, East Division, Apria Healthcare. DMEhub LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Apria Healthcare Group Inc.