Durable medical equipment encompasses more products than I could ever imagine. Hearing aids. Slings. Hot wax. Canes. Shower caddies. Even socks. All these items can fit under the umbrella commonly referred to as “DME”. In a world full of options, how do you know what a patient really needs? How do you make sure you are doing more than enough, without overspending?

The key is knowing your patient. Just like how the treating physician will spend time discussing pharmaceutical and surgical options before proceeding, your DME vendor should do the same. The DME vendor should know, before giving the patient anything, the lifestyle, basic medical history, and activity level of the patient. This information might come from the physician’s documents, but certainly should be verified by the patient. Shouldn’t someone involved in supplying medical items be talking with the patient anyway?

Let’s use a leg injury as an example. A few good questions to ask are:

Have you ever experienced this type of injury before?

Knowing the patient’s experience level with self-care of an injury can help determine if it is appropriate to drop ship an item or if the patient will need additional assistance (ex. Sizing a custom brace).

Have you ever used (insert item here) before?

This one is pretty obvious. How much help does the patient need? Should you explain how the equipment works or not?

Did your doctor recommend anything else beyond what is on the prescription?

Sometimes doctors recommend ice or heat on an injury. Maybe something over the counter for a topical burn. Doctors don’t always include everything on the prescription, but that doesn’t mean the patient wont improve quicker with a little extra push in the right direction. Following up on OTC modalities will also give you insight into the patient’s level of motivation to heal. If heat helps, but the patient refuses to use a heating pad, do they really want to get better?

And a big one – Are you having any other issues because of your injury?

What if the patient is developing back pain because of modifying his or her movements? Will the crutches or knee scooter make it worse? If a patient expresses concerns or symptoms, these should DEFINITELY be brought up at the same time DME is being sent or given to the patient. Our goal as a vendor is to IMPROVE patient outcomes, not hinder them.

However, asking these questions does NOT merit a DME vendor changing the care plan. That is up to the treating physician. A DME vendor should never take liberties with a patient’s treatment. If you, as a vendor, have concerns…Bring. Them. Up.

Our clients are always thankful when we go the extra mile. Adjusters and nurse case managers alike, appreciate feedback they may not have received from the patient directly. In the above example, what if the back pain went unaddressed? Could it result in a reduction of MMI? Could it result in higher PPD ratings? Possibly. It never hurts to help build a better picture of the patient’s claim. The least we can do for our clients is make their claimants feel confident in the planning of care. There is no better peace of mind than knowing someone has your best interest and recovery at heart.

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