In brief: Budget neutrality dampens certain rates, Brightree buys Apacheta

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Friday, December 21, 2018

WASHINGTON – Reimbursement rates for stationary and portable oxygen concentrators fare quite differently in the 2019 fee schedule, according to an analysis by AAHomecare.
The rural rate for stationary concentrators (E1390) will increase 10.9%, from $121.46 to $134.71, and the average regional rate will increase 4.4% from $69.31 to $72.32.
The rural rate for POCs (E1392) will decrease 5.2% from $46.77 to $44.32, and the average regional rate will decrease 6.5%, from $38.10 to $35.64.
Rates for portable gaseous contents (E0431) and portable gaseous 02 system (K0738) will also see decreases ranging from 3.8% to 6.5%, according to AAHomecare.
“These additional cuts for home oxygen therapy are certain to impact providers and patients in rural and other non-CBA areas,” stated AAHomecare in a bulletin. “Since CMS has repeatedly made it clear that they do not believe they have the statutory authority to address the budget neutrality offset, the HME community needs to make this a priority for advocacy efforts in the 116th Congress.”
A competitive-bidding related final rule released in November creates a new class for portable liquid oxygen equipment by splitting the existing class of portable gas and portable liquid oxygen, and changes the way budget neutrality is calculated by applying the offset to all oxygen and oxygen equipment classes beginning Jan. 1.
CMS’s 2019 fee schedule, released last week, provides a 2.5% increased to single payment amounts in former competitive bidding areas; a 2.5% increase to SPAs for diabetes supplies as part of the mail-order program; and a 2.3% increase for all other DME.

Brightree buys mobile delivery platform
ATLANTA – Brightree has acquired Apacheta, with an eye toward further innovating the company’s mobile delivery and cloud-based software platform, and increasing adoption among provider customers.
Brightree’s and Apacheta’s platforms have been integrated since 2015.
“Apacheta solves many of the business challenges HMEs face in managing deliveries, particularly eliminating missing, lost or incomplete delivery information,” said Matt Mellott, CEO of Brightree. “It has already helped Brightree customers save significant time and money, and we look forward to investing in its continued innovation and scalability.”
Apacheta and its Media, Pa.-based employees, including CEO Gregg Timmons, will join Brightree.
Apacheta is Brightree’s third acquisition in the past 18 months, following Conduit Technology and AllCall Connect.
ResMed, which owns Brightree, will continue to evaluate where else the company’s offerings could be integrated within its larger software-as-a-service ecosystem.
“Adding a reliable market-tested mobile delivery platform to ResMed’s SaaS portfolio helps our customers work more seamlessly and provide a better experience for their patients,” said Raj Sodhi, SaaS president for ResMed. “In addition to driving further innovation of this platform, we will explore bringing this solution to other care settings and platforms that would benefit by having a delivery solution.
ResMed has also acquired a number of companies recently—two in as many months: MatrixCare in November, and Propeller Health in December.
Terms of the Apacheta deal were not disclosed.

Providers hold off on ordering—for now
NEW YORK – The majority of HME providers are reducing or delaying orders for oxygen and CPAP equipment, but that is likely to be temporary, according to a new survey for the fourth quarter of 2018 from Needham & Company.
Sixty three percent of respondents said they would reduce or delay orders for oxygen equipment in response to an any willing provider provision set to go into effect Jan. 1 for Medicare, according to the survey of 150 providers.
Respondents said they would also reduce or delay orders for CPAP devices (55%); mobility equipment (43%); non-invasive ventilators (36%); and other equipment (19%).
Analysts expect, however, any disruption to be temporary and only last one or two quarters.
“Since we expect patient volumes to remain steady, we believe that HMEs will ultimately have to reorder more equipment to catch up with demand in future periods,” according to Needham.
Other findings from the survey related to POCs:
•    Providers expect to see double-digit growth for POCs over the next twelve months, increasing from 22.3% of the ambulatory oxygen market to 30.4% during that time frame.
•    Applied Home Healthcare’s OxyGo was the highest-rated POC at 5.8 out of 7, followed by Applied Home Healthcare’s OxyGo Fit and Inogen’s G3, both at 5.4.
•    The two main factors limiting the use of POCs are the initial upfront investment and reliability.
•    Poll respondents believe that an average of 44% of their ambulatory oxygen patients are candidates for POCs, but Needham expects this increase as providers gain experience with POCs.

PHS poised to go national
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Pediatric Home Service has partnered with InTandem Capital Partners, a healthcare services-focused private equity firm, to expand its existing service lines. PHS offers a variety of services to pediatric patients throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. “We selected InTandem as our investment partner because of their deep understanding of the healthcare services industry and their proven track record implementing successful growth strategies,” said CEO Mark Hamman. “As we work to establish PHS as a national leader in the pediatric home care industry, we are excited to leverage InTandem’s team of healthcare experts to assist us with accelerating our growth. ” InTandem believes PHS is “well positioned” for future growth. “We are eager to work with Mark and the entire leadership team to help take the business from a regional provider to a national leader,” said Micah Meisel, managing director.

KCI, Highmark forge performance-based deal
SAN ANTONIO – KCI, a provider of advanced wound management, and Highmark, an insurer, have entered into an agreement for the KCI iOn Progress Remote Therapy Monitoring Program. Used in conjunction with the Activ.A.C. Therapy System, the program provides monitoring, engagement and adherence, according to a press release. The agreement is the first of its kind for negative pressure wound therapy and creates a performance-based payment structure to reduce total wound care costs, according to a press release. “Our aim is to create value across the continuum of wound care and iOn Progress Remote Therapy Monitoring allows us to pursue that by better understanding each patient’s wound care journey,” said R. Andrew Eckert, president and CEO of KCI. “This unique insight allows us to engage patients and their caregivers like no other and better assist them through the healing process, which leads to better therapy adherence and ultimately, better outcomes and reduced costs.”

Inogen launches connected platform
GOLETA, Calif. – Inogen has launched Inogen Connect, a wireless connectivity platform for its Inogen One G4 through its direct-to-consumer channel. The platform is compatible with both Apple and Android, and includes patient features like oxygen purity status, battery run time, product support functions and notification alerts, according to a press release. A back-end database portal offers remote troubleshooting, equipment health checks and a location tracker to lower a provider’s total cost of serving oxygen therapy patients. Inogen expects to launch Inogen Connect in the domestic business-to-business channel in the first quarter of 2019.

WellSky acquires ‘entry point’ into new markets
LENEXA, Kan. – WellSky has acquired Consolo Services Group, a provider of fully integrated, web-based IT solutions for the hospice and palliative care industries. The deal offers WellSky, formerly Mediware, an entry point into the palliative, adult day care and memory care markets. “By combining our expertise in hospice software and services, WellSky Hospice and Consolo will enhance the experiences for our customers across both companies,” said Bill Miller, CEO of WellSky in a press release. The acquisition is the fifth this year for the TPG Capital-backed WellSky. Other buys include Rock-Pond Solutions and BlueStrata EHR, both in August.

Protech makes pair of buys
CINCINNATI – Protech Home Medical has acquired Riverside Medical and Central Oxygen, it announced Dec. 17. Riverside Medical, which focuses on home respiratory services in Tennessee and northern Mississippi, is Protech’s first entry into Tennessee. Central Oxygen, which also focuses on home respiratory, is located in Indiana. “I am pleased to continue to deliver on the strategy that we have articulated to the market place of rolling in strategic and well-priced assets when they make sense for the company,” said Greg Crawford, chairman and CEO of Protech, in a press release. Under the terms of the definitive purchase agreements, Protech acquired Riverside Medical and Central Oxygen for total consideration of about $871,000, which includes assumed debt and about 1.1 million common shares issued at a deemed price of $0.14 per share. The securities issued are subject to a four-month hold period.

Gaffney assumes vice president duties
ATLANTA – Medtrade Group Show Director Kevin Gaffney’s role will expand to include vice president duties. Gaffney has planned and executed more than 35 trade shows in a career spanning 25 years. In addition to Medtrade and Medtrade Spring, he is also group show director for four other shows: Environments for Aging; Construction SuperConference; HealthCare Design; and Hospitality Design. “People thought the Internet would kill trade shows, but it’s really made them more important than ever,” says Gaffney. “Social media and technology offer great ways to connect with people remotely and virtually, but people do business with people they know and like. You really can’t get to know somebody unless you spend time with that person, preferably in person.”

3B has new HQ
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – 3B Medical has moved into a new corporate headquarters. The company, which experienced triple-digit growth in 2018, needed more space to hire more staff. “We selected Winter Haven as our corporate home because it is only 45 minutes outside of Orlando, easily accessible to both Tampa and Orlando, but still retains a slightly rural and small town flavor, which our employees love,” said Alex Lucio, CEO. “We are looking forward to another year of triple-digit growth in 2019.” The move coincides with several new products releases, and the expansion of 3B Medical’s global sales efforts into Canada, Australia and Europe.

VGM publishes tech playbook
WATERLOO, Iowa – VGM Group has released its latest playbook: “Technology Snapshots: Innovative Solutions for the Future.” This fourth edition of the playbook is a guide to helping providers and vendors understand both the threats and opportunities that make up the business technology ecosystem, the company says. “Technology is at the top of VGM’s list of priorities to help our membership community evolve and protect their business for the future,” said Clint Geffert, president of VGM & Associates. “From compliance to workflow to cybersecurity to the Internet of Things, this playbook was developed specifically to help businesses understand how technology can and should play a significant role in 2019 and beyond.” VGM called on in-house thought leaders and its vast network of experts in the technology space to build the content for the 26-page playbook. Seven of the articles in the playbook were written by the company’s vendor partners. The playbook is free to VGM members and vendor partners.

Graham-Field celebrates $10M facility
ATLANTA – GF Health Products joined 150 guests and state dignitaries in December to celebrate the grand opening of its new global headquarters at One Graham-Field Way in Atlanta. The 7.45-acre facility, which stretches across two counties in the Atlanta metro area, unites the company’s corporate headquarters, customer showroom and regional distribution center. It also serves as the company’s manufacturing hub for therapeutic support surface and specialty seating products. “With the 10-month construction process complete, the new space cements Graham-Field’s position as a prominent design, engineering and domestic medical equipment manufacturing facility,” said Ken Spett, president and CEO. The company invested $10 million in the new facility, which joins other facilities in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Missouri, Rhode Island and California.

Soleo opens location in Birmingham
MCKINNEY, Texas – Soleo Health has opened a specialty infusion pharmacy in Birmingham, Ala., expanding the company’s footprint to 19 locations nationwide, with licensure in all 50 states. The 4,000-square-foot location features a sterile pharmacy complex equipped with state-of-the-art compounding capabilities. It offers patients the flexibility of receiving their care in their homes or on-site in one of three ambulatory infusion suites. “We selected this area as a complement to our Mobile, Ala., location and (due to) the market demand for high quality specialty infusion services,” said Drew Walk, CEO. “From this location, we are reaching patients in Birmingham and extending service to the surrounding areas.”

PlayMaker, WellSky integrate
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A new partnership between PlayMaker Health and WellSky combines EHR and business development data with market data and customer relationship management tools. “As we’ve worked with providers over the past 10 years, we know providers need a fully integrated growth solution that offers visibility across their market, their referral sources and their sales team, all in one place,” said John Griscavage, CEO of PlayMaker. “Our partnership with WellSky allows us to continue delivering on that promise.” In October, PlayMaker integrated with Brightree.

VMI buys Revability
PHOENIX – Vantage Mobility International, a manufacturer of wheelchair accessible vehicles, has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Revability, a division of REV Group. Revability designs and manufacturers wheelchair accessible vehicles for commercial and personal use, giving VMI a more diversified product line. “This is an important move as our organization continues to take steps to satisfy the needs of our retail and commercial customers,” said Mark Shaughnessy, CEO of VMI. The Revability deal follows VMI’s acquisition of AMS Vans, a company that provides economy priced wheelchair accessible van conversions for consumers, in October 2017. VMI will continue to operate Revability’s manufacturing plant in Clarkston, Mich., under the Revability name and will transition the remaining manufacturing to its plant in Phoenix.

Short takes: RESNA
Mary Ellen Buning, president of RESNA’s board of directors, joined a range of experts in London to serve as a judge for Toyota Mobility Foundation’s “Mobility Unlimited Challenge.” The $4 million challenge seeks to support “radical improvements in the mobility and independence of people with lower-limb paralysis through smarter assistive technology.” Five finalists will be announced in January with each receiving a $500,000 development grant. One winning team will be announced in September 2020, receiving a $1 million prize…RESNA has updated its procedures for the development and approval of position papers. “We hope this update encourages experts in the rehabilitation engineering and assistive technology field to submit a paper,” the organization says. Read about the procedures here.