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A breath of fresh air

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   By Kenneth Suter, August 2012

Mobile solutions increase accuracy for medical equipment and oxygen respiratory supplier.

As industry, government and private insurance rules and regulations continue to evolve, the number of requirements necessary to maintain compliance seem to increase exponentially. For many companies, keeping up with these requirements means that the proven tracking systems they’ve used for years are no longer enough to keep up, especially when those tracking systems are manual.

Barcoded liquid oxygen tank from Family Respiratory and Medical Supply Corporation

Advancements in mobile technologies have created an opportunity to automate data collection processes and eliminate paper-based record keeping. Ultimately, this will not only save medical supply companies time and money, but it will also increase inventory accuracy and accountability, helping to more easily and efficiently maintain compliance with the ever-changing regulations. Family Respiratory and Medical Supply Corporation, a full-service durable medical equipment (DME) and oxygen respiratory supplier, looked to a mobile proof-of-delivery (POD) system to surmount its growing compliance frustrations.

Founded in 1990, Family Respiratory is one of less than 100,000 providers nationwide, and in the top 3 percent in billing, that specializes in home oxygen CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) and BiPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure) products and services. The preferred provider for nine contracted patient-care facilities and hospitals in the area, Family Respiratory helps with the patient discharge process by offering products and services that extend facilities’ care into patients’ homes.

Challenges

The healthcare industry is filled with stringent regulations and volumes of paperwork, so Family Respiratory sought a solution that would streamline its processes and ensure accountability. Because the products the company supplies to its patients are considered hazardous materials, they are strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other federal and state agencies. It is imperative for Family Respiratory to maintain a high level of inventory control and traceability – knowing exactly where each product is at any given time – to remain in compliance. 

In addition to federal and state regulations, Family Respiratory must also abide by the detailed rules and requirements of private insurance companies and Medicare. Many of the products the company delivers to its patients are billed back to insurance and Medicare, so the details, accountability and accuracy of the associated paperwork are of utmost importance.

A large percentage of Family Respiratory’s business is conducted in the field when servicing patients. Dealing with hardcopy paperwork and disconnected field technicians made it nearly impossible to maintain precise inventory and compliance records without hiring additional internal staff and implementing redundant procedures. The company quickly realized a mobile solution was vital in moving the business to the next level and looking to future growth.

Solution

In early 2011, Family Respiratory selected Barcoding Inc. to deliver a mobile proof-of-delivery (POD) solution as part of its newly purchased billing- and inventory-control system. Barcoding is a national systems integrator, specializing in the development, deployment and management of supply chain and mobility systems based on automated data capture and wireless technology.

The first step of the implementation was to create barcodes within the company’s new inventory management software application for every serialized piece of equipment that was under federal control requirements. To track the products, Barcoding configured and deployed Intermec CN50 mobile computers for Family Respiratory’s more than 20 field technicians and respiratory therapists. Through on-site, customized training, Barcoding made sure that all staff had the knowledge and skills necessary to take full advantage of the benefits the handheld mobile computers offer.

Barcoding’s experienced, certified repair and technical support teams continue to provide post-implementation support though a tiered helpdesk with rapid issue resolution both via phone and remote access. If a piece of hardware is not functioning properly, Barcoding will quickly repair or replace the component so Family Respiratory experiences little to no downtime.

Once the technicians were armed with the new CN50 mobile devices, the company began to realize additional quality-improvement capabilities beyond improved inventory tracking, receiving, shipping and overall accuracy. The handheld devices allowed for a variety of real-time functionalities, such as tracking staff on the road, to improving routing, managing equipment and viewing patient information and in-home inventories that were previously not accessible with hardcopy orders.

In addition, when office personnel needed to assign an “add-on” or an additional responsibility to one of the field technicians, they could now dispatch it through the delivery-management software to the CN50 device in the field. The technician immediately receives a notification and acknowledges the add-on through the software, confirming with the dispatcher that the action will be completed.

Results

Intermec’s CN50 mobile computer

Within a few short months, Family Respiratory began seeing significant results and return on investment. By assigning barcodes to all the equipment and automating its processes, the company greatly reduced human error and improved the level of quality assurance. Family Respiratory is now experiencing real-time, accurate inventory accountability – with error ratios of .001 or less – for every serialized piece of government-controlled product it delivers. This enables quick identification, location and access to specific products for FDA compliance, or tracking in the event of a recall.

From an operations perspective, both the delivery and receiving processes have greatly improved. By tracking staff to determine efficient routing for drivers and technicians and streamlining the dispatch process, Family Respiratory has improved the delivery process 100 percent and reduced fuel expenses. In the warehouses, automating the entry of serial numbers has cut receiving time by 80-85 percent.

On the administrative side, the automation and electronic delivery of orders has reduced paperwork by 90 percent; this reduction cannot be overemphasized, especially in an industry where the burden of paperwork is tremendous, and at a company that previously processed more than 200,000 pieces of paper annually.

Looking forward

Through this deployment, Family Respiratory quickly eliminated several internal processes that became redundant, freeing up employee time and allowing for the reallocation of resources. These results position Family Respiratory for a future of smart growth because the company is now statistically tracking and adding employees only when necessary, eliminating manual processes and implementing additional capabilities, such as mileage tracking and maintenance on vehicles.                 

About the author

Kenneth Suter is president and CEO of Family Respiratory and Medical Supply Corporation Inc. For more on Barcoding Inc., click here.


Tags:  Hospital Information Systems