Could GPS-enabled selfies solve the home care fraud crisis?

The owner of a Minnesota home care company has developed new technology that relies on GPS-enabled selfies to document each episode of care, a verification process that aims to curb fraudulent billing from providers who falsify patient visits, according to the Star Tribune.

Andre Best, owner of Best Home Care in St. Paul, began developing the new technology last year after he learned the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) rejected a proposed electronic verification mandate that would have made it harder for providers to submit claims for services they never provided. Instead, the state relies on random phone calls to clients to ensure providers have arrived at the scheduled time, a system the DHS inspector general described to the newspaper as "an inadequate approach to controlling fraud in the personal care industry."

Best has invested $50,000 into an iPhone-based system that requires personal care assistants (PCA) to electronically sign into each appointment using GPS verification, and take a selfie with the client. Although the current system requires home care recipients to sign a time sheet, clients are often easily coerced, or in some cases, they collude with the PCA to submit false claims, according to the Star Tribune.

Best says he doesn't want to profit from the service and has already agreed to provide it free to 25 competitors. Ultimately, he plans to transfer management of the software to a nonprofit company.

"It's not foolproof and it's just one thing, but it's a pretty good solution," Best told the Star Tribune. "We're just trying to give providers a solution and improve the industry. I hope it works for the other agencies."

Minnesota has been hit hard by home health fraud schemes dating back to 2009, and the DHS has often failed to recoup money from home care schemes. Earlier this year, home health agency owners responsible for as much as $57 million in fraudulent claims have recieved lenghty prison sentences. In 2014, the Office of Inspector General found nearly one-third of home health claims did not meet requirements for face-to-face encounters with patients, resulting in hundreds of millions in improper payments.

To learn more
- read the Star-Tribune article

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