Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources Learn More
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources Learn More

COVID-19 and DME: What You Need to Know

Effectively serving patients and caregivers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic requires partnerships with the vendors serving you. Patients and caregivers often view these vendors as a direct representative of your organization. During this pandemic, no partnership is more critical to achieving desired patient and operational outcomes than the relationship you have with durable medical equipment (DME) providers.

DME vendors face their own set of challenges right now: protecting their employees, low inventory, back-ordered equipment, sudden price increase in supplies, running out of supplies, having access to adequate inventory of protective equipment and working with facilities and families for infected and possibly-infected patients, all while dealing with the increased emotional strains of all parties.

Actions your DME Provider(s) should be taking:

  • Giving each employee a health assessment and temperature reading before the start of every shift and prior to entering the offices.
  • Separating office employees and warehouse/service technicians so they do not come in contact with one another.
  • Restricting access to DME offices and warehouses to employees only.
  • Staying at least six feet away from patients and caregivers, if possible, when making deliveries.
  • Following droplet precautions for patients suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 or any infective disease.
  • Disinfecting common areas of the DME offices and warehouse multiple times throughout the day.
  • Disinfecting all delivery trucks at the beginning of every shift.
  • Disinfecting all equipment before loading it into the delivery trucks (for both pick-ups and deliveries).

Actions your Hospice, Home Health, or Home Care Professionals should be taking:

  • For new patients, now is NOT the time to switch-out equipment. Use One-Time Contracts for such items. If a new patient has equipment with a vendor that doesn’t serve your other patients, or isn’t your preferred provider, simply provide a one-time contract for that equipment/patient.
  • Communicate often with your DME provider(s) so you can navigate their capacity:
    • Make sure your DME vendor is aware of any infection-related concerns before delivering equipment.
    • Some vendors are already mandating delivery restrictions for urgent needs only. Don’t be surprised if some deliveries (and especially pick-ups) are delayed.
    • Remember, during this pandemic:
      • Only order what is medically necessary.
      • Manage ordering efficiencies – unnecessary stat orders, repeat deliveries, etc.
      • Remember oxygen is a treatment for hypoxemia – not for breathlessness. We see an uptick in supplemental O2 equipment orders as nurses understandably want such equipment in place, fearful they may not get one otherwise. This is creating an O2 concentrator shortage across the country.
      • Have a policy for STAT DME orders and follow it.
      • Stay updated on the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
      • Be a bit more lenient on equipment pickup requests (we all need DME providers to prioritize), but keep track of the pickup date ordered for adjudication of the vendor invoice.
    • Perspective: In addition to your agency, the vast majority of DME vendors and manufacturers of DME equipment have stepped up to serve the health needs in our communities. We should be very proud of our industry!

Oxygen Concentrators Supply

According to a variety of vendors we work with, O2 concentrators from some manufacturers are not reliably available. Representatives from O2 concentrator companies are working 24/7 to fulfill the demand, with the average back-order time at seven days. We have only heard of one manufacturer that raised prices (by $75) to offset increased manufacturing costs.

Using this crisis as a time of establishing a true partnership with your DME vendors requires clarity and clear communication of expectations and capacity between all parties. You have high standards of patient care and good DME providers do, too. While managing the COVID-19 crisis, establish great relationships with those vendors.

In addition, use this time to begin determining who is stepping up as a true partner with your agency instead of being merely a vendor. Great DME providers desire collaborative relationships, too, and now is a great time to exhibit your sincere interest in helping them serve your patients. In a few months, we can all hopefully determine how to adjust relationships, if needed, going forward.

Axxess offers more useful tips and updated COVID-19 guidelines on our resources page, as well as the Help Center.

Dr. J. Hall C. Thorp is a Partner at Qualis Management, LLC. Qualis assists great agencies throughout the U.S. with professionally managing DME and working in tandem with outstanding DME Providers. Industry best practices, benchmarks, educational and management tools provided by Qualis while they work in tandem with your selected DME Providers result in increased patient care and ever-decreasing DME costs for clients. Hall can be reached at hthorp@qualis.com and stands ready to answer any questions or assist AXXESS clients and friends in any way.


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