HME providers scrounge for PPE, ramp up infection control as they prep for coronavirus

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Friday, March 20, 2020

YARMOUTH, Maine – With the coronavirus pandemic rapidly expanding across the country, HME providers say the goal is to prep, not panic.

“Communication of proper personal protective equipment and training for all,” wrote one respondent to a recent HME Newspoll. “(We need) to be safe without panic. Wrong information causes extremes in carelessness or panic.”

More than three-quarters of respondents to a recent HME Newspoll report the outbreak is affecting how they do business.

PPE—or the lack of it—is a huge problem for the health care system at large, and many providers say that’s their biggest problem, too.

“You now have to think as though everything you haven’t sanitized could be contaminated, and you then transfer the contamination over to everything you touch,” wrote one respondent. “Mask and gloves are on for retail and delivery staff. We will need more PPE!”

Providers are heeding the advice of the Centers for Disease Control to take precautionary steps such as “social distancing.”

“We are creating space between our customer service reps and in-store patients, asking a series of questions about symptoms before scheduling any appointments or deliveries, and trying to limit our amount of exposure and transmission in every patient encounter,” wrote one respondent.

Some providers report having to scale back certain business operations, like deliveries, or even closing some locations. Others report difficult managing their referral source relationships.

“Hospitals and nursing home are restricting access to our sales/customer service staff,” said one respondent. “We are the only provider of our product in the area. Patients are not getting their equipment and their health condition is getting worse.”

Providers are also worried about what will happen after the crisis—which experts warn could last weeks, if not months.

“We are worried about the bubble this is going to put in the pipeline when things are already financially on the edge,” wrote one respondent.