How the Coronavirus is Changing DME and HME Billing

15 May 2020 Barbara's Billing & Consulting Services

A doctor wearing gloves holding a COVID-19 shaped sphere made up of figures to represent patients and services.The durable medical equipment (DME) and home medical equipment (HME) billing industry is changing at a rapid rate to accommodate increased demand in supply during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. From social distancing to high tech solutions to new challenges, find out what safety precautions are impacting this field and which ones are expected to stick around for the foreseeable future. Then, use these platforms to connect with your team and patients more seamlessly.

Social Distancing Using Technology
The primary concern of DME and HME billing departments is the patient and employee safety. Therefore, the industry is taking a page from medical clinics and distance learning opportunities by incorporating more innovative technology for patient communication and team meetings while working remotely or spaced more than six feet apart. For example, more data than ever before is being transferred to online portals for improved communication and apps like Zoom allow large teams to catch up on the latest COVID-19 updates as well as work with partnering companies to navigate through these unchartered times. Also, Skype enables a small group of individuals to talk on all screen sizes for both Android and Apple product users. Of course, FaceTime is as easy as it comes to connect with others for Apple fans, especially patients who are already familiar with Apple products. 

The Rise in Claims 
Another change for the DME and HME billing department is keeping up with the surge in demand for products and services. As hospitals increasingly run out of beds and necessary medical equipment, DME providers have been stepping up to send much-needed equipment when requested. This leaves billing personnel racing to match the new pace of submitted claims.

Moreover, another way hospitals are conserving space, keeping patients who are not in critical care safe, and making room for the more seriously ill patients is to send those individuals who are not in experiencing severe symptoms of illness home for recovery from procedures or illness. Such a policy has been largely successful with the aid of DME and HME providers who collaborate with hospitals and insurance carriers to ensure patients receive vital equipment, instruction, and services while recovering at home. The ongoing care adds more claims to be entered, submitted, tracked, correctly paid, and reviewed when necessary for the billing specialists while working in fairly isolated conditions at home.

The Struggle to Staying Current
Many insurance companies are starting to become more flexible with their DME and HME coverage and coding requirements to better accommodate the dramatic demand increase. Such rule changes are being shared amongst the DME and HME billing community as quickly as possible via the technology tools available. That said, it is important for each specialist to check the carriers' websites for posted changes and contact the carriers directly with any questions on a frequent basis before entering claims for submission. Improperly coded claims or claims without proper documentation may still result in denials, rejections, and longer payment processes. 

Claims Process Duration 
Another hold-up for the claims process is the bottle-necking that has been happening at the insurance carrier level. With the rise in submissions coupled with a safe-distancing transition for employees, insurance carriers are scurrying to review and process the high volume of claims while discussing current and possible future changes to claim eligibility. Like many industries currently operating to support patient care needs, there may be a longer-than-normal-delay for DME and HME billing personnel to receive customer service responses to questions and payments to post. 

Working With Patients Without Internet
Throughout the claims process, much of the information may be posted on the provider's website through the patient portals or discussed with patients via Internet-based tools. However, many individuals do not currently have access to the Internet. Therefore, DME and HME billing employees are having to come up with other ways to obtain and send documents to these patients safely. Traditional mailing is effective when the patient has the postage and envelopes available or has a caretaker who can purchase such materials. However, with every trip outside the home, caretakers are further being exposed to the myriad of contaminants in the area that may then be transferred to the recovering patient. As a result, HME and DME providers are working to be creative with new solutions such as driving to patients' homes to collect documents and check on the patient's needs from a safe distance while standing in the driveway.

Ultimately, despite the obstacles DME and HME specialists face with this unprecedented outbreak, advanced technology has been combined with a compassionate community to set in motion safer and more flexible procedures that have risen to the occasion and provided critical support for both company personnel and patients as well as their families. Barbar's Billing and Consulting Services is proud to serve as a resource for industry updates and billing services to ensure a smoother transition, reduced errors, and faster payment postings. Fill out our contact form or call us at (678) 273-3404 to discover ways we can help save you money and time for all your DME and HME billing services.