Get Out Your Fuzzy Slippers
Byline: Gail Walker, Editor-in-Chief
One of my favorite television commercials shows a professional woman at a business meeting. When the camera pans down, you see that she is sitting at her kitchen table in fuzzy slippers, looking at a computer screen.
The image reflects how radically the world’s workplace is changing as new technology woos us with its possibilities.
Just look around in this industry. We can see the future in amazing new products like stair-climbing wheelchairs, assistive robots and body-washing machines. Health professionals already make virtual house calls to monitor their patients from remote locations, and specialists can participate in devising complicated rehab systems far from their customers.
Information technology is driving changes no less extreme on the business side of HME: electronic CMNs, automated inventory replacement, management systems that streamline administration and enhance patient service.
In the bigger picture, President Bush wants to speed IT into health care, calling for electronic health records for every American in 10 years. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson has the blueprint for a new health information infrastructure that includes EHRs, along with an interoperable network to link the records nationwide. He believes the decade-long program will do nothing less than transform the delivery of health care.
Harnessing the efficiencies of a centralized information system would certainly help HME providers. But the current reality is that for most, participation will require a leap of faith into the electronic age. Forget workflow automation and the paperless office. Forget online applications in real-time. Some providers are still struggling to comply with electronic claims submission. Others say they can’t afford such sophisticated systems.
According to HomeCare’s recent Reimbursement Survey, only 70 percent of responding providers are using HME software for the tasks most basic to their business, like billing and accounts receivable. Even fewer (45 percent) use it for tracking inventory, a job that, in other industries, has been computerized for years. The most shocking statistic shows that 23 percent do not use HME software at all.
Clearly, there must be some fast changes in providers’ embrace of IT, which at best, can be described as apprehensive.
If you are one of those who is hanging back, the question is no longer whether you can afford to invest in technology and applications that will help your business run better, but what will happen if you don’t. It’s time to get out your fuzzy slippers – and get connected.
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