At Heartland, providers learn about game changers

Friday, June 13, 2014

WATERLOO, Iowa – Reimbursement may be shrinking, but the HME industry is standing on the cusp of explosive growth, The VGM Group’s Mike Mallaro told attendees at the Heartland Conference last week.

“Other industries would kill for the demand curve we are on,” said Mallaro, CFO, during his session, “HME Success: Building Your Business for the Next Five Years.” “You hear about the baby boomers and you get numb to it, but it’s a massive game changer.”

Heartland took place June 9-12. Now in its 13th year, the event drew more than 900 people, according to VGM.

While attendance was down slightly from last year, there was an increase in the number of VGM member companies that had never attended before. 

“Nearly 50 new companies attended this year, which represented more than 80 individuals,” said Christa Miehe, vice president of strategic projects for VGM.

Bend the curve

The number of people age 65 and older is projected to grow 80% by 2030, said Mallaro. Unlike previous generations, they have money: In 1960, 40% of seniors were poor; today, only 8% are poor.

That’s good, because the trend of payers paying less is going to continue, Mallaro said.

“We’re not at the end of shrinking reimbursement, but you’ll have the chance to sell dramatically more units,” he said. “Patients are going to pay a bigger portion going forward and that opens the door to new products and services.”

For providers to succeed in this new normal, however, they must make changes to their business models, Mallaro said. That means expanding, increasing efficiencies, improving customer service, obtaining contracts and gathering data.

“Know your numbers,” he said. “To ignore data is to ignore opportunity.”

Get an alignment

A major opportunity for providers can be found in helping hospitals reduce 30-day readmission rates, Bob Messenger of Invacare told attendees during his session, “The Future of Hospital Oxygen Referrals: The Changing Paradigm.” During any given year, roughly half of all hospitals will be penalized, he said.

“There are $17 billion a year in costs associated with readmissions,” he said. “Don’t you think it would be wise on the part of hospitals to align themselves with those outside the hospital where the patients are?”

Keep your eye on the prize

No matter what the future brings, the reason providers keep on keeping on hasn’t changed, as keynote speaker David Wagner, author of “Living Life as a Daymaker” and a cancer survivor, told attendees.

"Know that what you do matters,” he said. “There's dramatic change in your industry. We understand that and we appreciate it. Don't take your eye off of what you do even though there is a lot of static in the way."