When healthcare providers prescribe home medical equipment for patients in need of post-acute care or managing a chronic illness, it’s critically important these patients can receive their prescribed devices as quickly as possible.

But speed and efficiency are not hallmarks of this segment of the home healthcare industry. Too often, a prescription for home medical equipment initiates a frustrating road that often ends with the patient seeking medical care outside the home, or worse, being readmitted to the hospital with a complication that could have been avoided through proper delivery and use.

There’s a better way. When all parts of the supply chain for home medical equipment (HME) and durable medical equipment (DME) are synced up, these costly problems are minimized. Process and technology improvements can make the HME/DME system work better for patients.

Reducing readmissions

Hospital readmissions are incredibly costly, to the tune of nearly $26 billion a year. Unfortunately, they are also all too common. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reports that approximately 1 in 5 patients is readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge, with 18% of readmissions likely preventable. Ensuring that patients have access to home medical equipment in a timely manner can help to reduce these troubling statistics.

Clinicians often don’t know the status of equipment and supply prescriptions once the insurance company approves and the order is placed. They might not hear about a problem until the patient shows up in the office or hospital with a health complication.

Reducing the rate of health complications begins by creating a more seamless connection in the HME/DME supply chain between all sides:

  • Health plans need orders to be clean, with no errors or missing information, and within their medical poIicies, to approve and pay the claim.
  • Doctors and other clinicians must juggle patient care with hours of administrative tasks, including placing orders and managing the billing tasks for their practices.
  • Suppliers are responsible for seeking prior authorization from insurance, fulfilling orders and delivering equipment and supplies to the home, including setup. They want clean orders, with everything required up front so they can simply move forward with the order, never backwards. Like most industries in the post-pandemic world, home-based care has experienced disturbances leading to delays in equipment delivery and importation of materials and components.
  • Patients are at the end of the process and often must deal with delays and other problems themselves or through caregivers, including spending time on the phone resolving issues. In some cases they may be missing instructions or lack physical strength to make proper use of any equipment or technology in the home.

Embracing new methods to secure durable medical equipment

To improve this process and ensure recovering or ill patients get needed medical equipment, all entities involved in home-based care must become more open to disruption. The home health medical community must more readily embrace new workflows that enable greater connectivity.

For example, physician practices see improved efficiency when integrating new workflows into their electronic health records systems to enable seamless prescribing of medical equipment, connecting directly with suppliers and insurers. One improvement practices can make is to understand and provide all information that the insurer and supplier need.

The supplier community, made up of more than 30,000 different companies, most of them small, likewise can find process improvements through software and systems that enable them to track and fulfill orders more quickly and accurately.

Technology is a connective tissue linking all facets of the ecosystem, but it isn’t the only piece of the puzzle. Technology and process improvements must go together to improve real-time visibility into available inventory, ensure all required insurance information is provided, enable physicians to monitor status of open prescriptions, and ultimately tackle any inefficiencies that lead to delays and errors in orders.

Simply put, providers want to be able to prescribe home medical equipment with speed, ease, and without overburdening their already swamped staffs. Suppliers want access to all the information required to complete orders at the very start so they can navigate insurance requirements, get reimbursed, and potentially take on more order volume. Patients, and their families, want to avoid having to return to the hospital.

There are a lot of moving parts. By embracing new ways of working, all parts of the home-based care supply chain can improve efficiency and communication, simplify the process, and ultimately enable patients to access the medical devices and equipment needed to remain where they prefer to be – at home.

Kevin Rath is head of customer experience at Tomorrow Health, a healthcare technology company enabling more efficient and reliable home-based care. He was an early hire at Warby Parker, where he spent 10+ years growing along the customer experience pipeline. Most notably, he was the head of customer experience at Warby Parker, where he built a sustainable system to create a best-in-class customer experience for Warby Parker’s clientele.