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Editorial note: This article includes highlights from an HME leadership discussion.

As we continue to prioritize health and safety in our personal and professional lives, the importance of accurate and immediate information has become apparent. This changing environment in light of COVID-19 means the HME industry must adapt quickly.

Last week we shared how our business continuity plan is in full swing. We’re already working on product enhancements as a result of COVID-19. Here are a few ways we’ve adapted to support you:

  • Diagnosis code. Effective April 1, we’ve enabled the new COVID-19 diagnosis code in Brightree and GoScripts.
  • CDC forms. We’ve also added three CDC-recommended forms on COVID-19 to Mobile Delivery, MyForms and our standard delivery ticket.
  • Photo delivery confirmation. We’ve added Mobile Delivery functionality that allows drivers to document deliveries with a photo. This contact-free process is making it safer for your drivers and patients.
  • HME provider forum. We’re providing a forum for HME providers to share the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses. In what has typically been a competitive HME landscape, most companies are now operating in the spirit that one provider shared: “Don’t be afraid to ask your neighbor.”

Read on to discover current best practices and action plans derived from your peers in the areas of referral trends, hospital discharges, patient care models and frontline employees.

Referral trends

While some HME providers report a decline in CPAP setups, others have experienced upticks in the last two weeks as they prepared for an extended shut-down period. They’ve also anticipated sleep labs shutting down and are trying to determine what they can predict 30, 60 and 90 days out to make spending plan adjustments.

This uptick in CPAP referrals also stems from rolling out telehealth, which requires the same documentation as traditional face-to-face.

Other items with increased demand include:

  • Diabetic supplies
  • CPAP supplies
  • Bracing
  • Compression hose

Outside of sleep, hospital referrals have been scrambling to obtain PPE for staff to prepare for the surge. Some providers are busy selling ventilators and beds to their referral hospitals and furnishing CPAPs and BIPAPs as the hospitals prepare their emergency disaster lists.

Some hospitals want 10-liter oxygen concentrators in addition to ventilators. Providers must determine how to preserve these for patients who transition to homecare versus the immediate need in the critical-care setting.

What you can do:

  • Talk to manufacturers and distributors on a daily basis.
  • Have buffer stock for the next few months to ensure hospitals can release patients to open up beds when the surge moves from acute to post-acute.
  • Develop a playbook for your referral partners and leverage telehealth to continue to drive patient visits for Home Sleep Testing (HST) and CPAP referrals. Use your playbook to visit practices in your community and share ideas on how to create volume.
  • Be creative in building referral relationships and teaching referral doctors how to streamline their referral processes during the crisis.

Hospital discharges

Families of nursing facility patients have started asking for their loved ones to be discharged. They’re concerned over COVID-19 visitor policies. Because of these discharges, HME providers are seeing more requests for oxygen. They’re also experiencing a higher sales volume for stairway lifts and C-lift chair lifts due to bed shortages.

What you can do:

  • Take advantage of the ePrescribe integration Brightree offers to connect with hospital referrals.
  • Participate in emergency requisitions for PPE including face shields, gloves, surgical masks and N95 masks.
  • Bring in and prep the team that will be going to the patient’s home post-discharge.

Patient care models

Virtual setups have been the main shift in patient-care models. Providers are using the healthcare version of Zoom to conduct a telehealth setup for CPAP and DocuSign for all documentation signatures. Providers say DocSeeMe is another platform that works well.

What you can do:

  • Engage with your referral sources via virtual setups.
  • Discover the validation rule in Brightree that instructs the order to be sent to a manager if there is a COVID-19 diagnosis. This notification allows the manager to alert the operations team to make sure they understand the necessary PPE and other safety precautions needed to see the patient.

Equipment ramp-up

Are you feeling the strain to maintain the current ventilation patient census? Many providers must protect needed inventory if any life-sustaining equipment goes down, which restricts the ability to take on new ventilator patients.

What you can do:

  • Instead of disposing of nonfunctioning oxygen concentrators, send them out to be repaired.
  • Take advantage of the Brightree integration that tracks inventory sent out for repair at no additional cost.

Frontline employees

By now you’ve probably moved your employees out of the office to work from home. But remote work can disintegrate the daily face-to-face communication you’re accustomed to.

What you can do:

  • Monitor the health of every employee daily by logging symptoms, tests and quarantines to avoid spreading COVID-19.
  • Consider hazard pay for frontline, ED, clinical nurses, home care staff, respiratory therapists and nurses who collect COVID-19 test specimens in the community.
  • Study your data carefully and adjust your workforce accordingly.

Whether it’s referral trends and hospital discharges or patient-care models and frontline employees, be prepared to help or accept help from your peers as we navigate the current landscape together.

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