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In brief: Labor shortage, telehealth survey, Belluscura’s listing

In brief: Labor shortage, telehealth survey, Belluscura’s listing

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Eighty percent of independent pharmacists are having trouble hiring for open positions, according to a new survey from the National Community Pharmacists Association. 

What’s more, nearly 90% of survey respondents say they can’t find pharmacy technicians, a critical position. 

“This is a major challenge for community pharmacies that are seeing many more patients because of the pandemic,” said NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, pharmacist. “Finding qualified workers is tough under normal circumstances. This is an acute problem for local pharmacies that should be at full strength now.” 

Nearly 60% can’t find front-end employees, 25% can’t find delivery drivers, and 13% can’t find pharmacists, according to the survey. 

The labor shortage is also driving up wages and benefits, a trickier problem for local pharmacies than most other small businesses, says Hoey. 

“Most other businesses can raise prices to cover the additional costs, but it’s not that simple for pharmacies,” he said. “Their reimbursements are controlled by pharmacy benefit managers. There is no option to pass along higher prices to consumers as in most other industries.” 

More than 72% of survey respondents say they are raising wages to attract workers. Fifty-six percent are offering more flexible work hours, and more than 20% are increasing benefits, according to the survey. 

The average technician wage is $16 per hour, while the average wage for sales clerks and other positions is $11.90 per hour, according to the 2020 NCPA Digest, sponsored by Cardinal Health. 

Stakeholders launch telehealth survey 

WASHINGTON – The Clinician Task Force and NCART have launched a survey to collect data and examples that can be used to educate Congress and other policy makers on the importance of physical and occupational therapists retaining the ability to provide telehealth services. 

“These folks need to hear real-life examples of how PT and OT telehealth has been a benefit to people with disabilities who use CRT, so they can understand the need to designate PTs and OTs as permanent telehealth practitioners,” wrote Don Clayback, executive director of NCART, in a recent email. 

CMS is allowing PTs and OTs to provide telehealth services during the public health emergency. 

The CTF and NCART are also trying to increase support for a bill in the House of Representatives, H.R. 2168, that would permanently expand access to telehealth services, including those specifically provided by PTs and OTs. 

“Ensuring there is a permanent PT/OT telehealth option after the PHE expires is important to protect continued access to CRT for people with disabilities,” Clayback wrote. 

Belluscura lists on London exchange 

LONDON and PLANO, Texas – Belluscura, a medical device developer focused on lightweight and portable oxygen enrichment technology, has begun trading on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) on the London Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol BELL. 

The company has raised 17.5 million pounds supported by new and existing inventors, and it has a market cap of about 50.96 million pounds. 

SPARK Advisory Partners Limited acted as the Belluscura’s sole nominated adviser and Dowgate Capital Limited acted as sole broker and bookrunner. 

The company’s first product, the X-PLO2R, is a lightweight POC cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and designed to replace larger, metal oxygen tanks and heavier POCs. Belluscura plans to launch that device, along with the X-PLO2R CX and DX POCs, within the next 12 months in the United States. Following a soft launch, the company plans to appoint distributors in the second half of 2021 and into 2022. It will then pursue International Regulatory clearances in 2021-22 before expanding distribution globally. 

Belluscura either owns or exclusively licenses a total of 26 patents and applications relating to oxygen enrichment devices and treatments. 

Rehab Medical goes big in Florida 

INDIANAPOLIS – Rehab Medical is opening a new location in Orlando, Fla., to broaden access to mobility solutions for residents in the community. “As Rehab Medical continues to expand, we are finding that there is a large base of people who are under-served and are welcoming our presence in the market,” said Kevin Gearheart, president. “We have already seen strong demand in Orlando, and we are excited for the impact we can have in the area.” By the end of 2021, Rehab Medical will offer full coverage support to residents throughout the state of Florida, the company says. Rehab Medical currently serves residents in northern and central Florida. The company serves more than 15,000 patients annually in 15 states.  

MiniMed analysis shows high rates of time in range 

DUBLIN, Ireland – Diabetes patients using Medtronics’ MiniMed 780G system saw an average overall time in range of 76.2% and an overnight time in range of 83%, according to an analysis of 4,120 individuals with Type 1 diabetes. "It is extremely encouraging to see Medtronic advancing both clinical outcomes, as well as the user experience through their latest MiniMed 780G system,” said Prof. Chantal Mathieu, endocrinologist at University Hospitals Leuven-KULeuven, Belgium. “It is clear that learnings from the launch of the world's first hybrid closed loop informed the design of this next-generation system. I am confident in this system's ability to do what a person with diabetes may not be able to do on their own by helping them minimize highs and lows, and ultimately live their lives less burdened by their diabetes."  Users remained in Advanced Hybrid Closed Loop (AHCL) mode, also referred to as the SmartGuard algorithm, for an average of 94% of the time, and showed an overall reduction in interactions required with the system demonstrated a more seamless experience than previous insulin pump systems, according to the analysis. 

Short take: Medtrade 

Emerald has announced that Griffin Randall has joined its sales team as a business development representative for Medtrade booths and sponsorships. He will also service existing customers. Randall comes from the retail industry, where he worked at Best Buy, starting in the home theater section and eventually extending his responsibilities to all of the company’s products. “Getting to interact with customers has always drawn me toward sales,” Randall said. “I’ve also had family in the trade show industry and growing up I’ve been involved with it.” Randall will mostly work out of Emerald’s Alpharetta, Ga., office... 

 AZ MediQuip expands outside the Phoenix Valley 

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – AZ MediQuip of Arizona will open its sixth location later this month in Prescott Valley with a 7,600-square-foot showroom. “We are excited to be expanding our services throughout Arizona and now bringing our exceptional service and selection to Prescott Valley,” said Dave Kozak, chief marketing officer. Earlier this year, AZ MediQuip received an investment from Gemini Investors to grow its retail business, and in May, it opened a location in Goodyear. The provider offers a broad range of home medical equipment and supplies, and repair and installation services. 

Upstate joins NHIA in COVID treatment program 

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Upstate HomeCare has partnered with the National Home Infusion Therapy Association to offer monoclonal antibody therapies to patients with mild and moderate COVID-19. The NHIA COVID-19 Home Infusion Therapy (C-HIT) Program hosts an online listing of home infusion providers that have agreed to provide these therapies to eligible individuals in their communities. “Upstate HomeCare is proud to be part of the U.S. health care response to the pandemic in our community,” said Greg LoPresti, CEO. “Decreasing hospital admissions is our first priority, and our pharmacists and nurses are ready to help those most in need. We look forward to working with prescribers to reach at-risk patients who can benefit from these very effective therapies.” NHIA will collect utilization and clinical outcome data from home infusion providers for the purposes of sharing information about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 mABs. Monoclonal antibodies have been shown to be highly effective in preventing severe disease and death in high-risk individuals if the one-time infusion is administered within 10 days of symptom onset.     

Tennessee to rein in PBMs 

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has signed into law legislation to reform pharmacy benefit managers. Tennessee SB1617/HB1398 prohibits PBMs from reimbursing pharmacies below their acquisition costs; addresses PBM conflicts of interest by prohibiting patient steering practices through coercive co-pays and other means; and prohibits spread pricing in the commercial market, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association. “PBMs have exploded in size and in influence in recent years but have been permitted to operate with little regulation, to the detriment of patients and taxpayers,” says NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, pharmacist, MBA. “With SB1617/HB1398, Tennessee is holding PBMs accountable. We’re grateful to Gov. Lee for signing this comprehensive reform legislation, and for the policymakers who fought for it to advance. It’s a great day for Tennessee patients and independent pharmacies.” 

United Spinal, AbleThrive combine resources 

KEW GARDENS, N.Y. – The United Spinal Association has acquired AbleThrive to ensure people with spinal cord injuries and disorders have greater access to resources and support. In the coming months, United Spinal and AbleThrive will combine their resources, information and technology on United Spinal’s website, creating an online support network for wheelchair users and other individuals with mobility disabilities and further enhancing outreach to the organization’s growing membership community. “As we emerge from this pandemic, it’s vital that people living with SCI/D get the very best support to pursue greater independence,” said Abby Ross, United Spinal’s COO. “Bringing AbleThrive’s resources under United Spinal will allow us to help more people overcome the hurdles of living with disability.” Since 2014, AbleThrive’s mission has been to leverage technology to connect people with SCI/D and their families to disability specific support resources that were readily accessible online but difficult to find and navigate. It has sourced articles and videos from its partner network of more than 250 organizations and organized more than 1,500 articles on its website by category and level of mobility. AbleThrive has been shared in 15 spinal cord injury rehab centers in four countries and was featured in the documentary “Resolution: Innovative Thinking About Disability.” 

Permobil gives users a new Voice 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Permobil has added a new Voice Assistant feature on its MyPermobil app that uses Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant to allow wheelchair users to access key information verbally. Wheelchair users like Michael Huhn already use Google Assistant to control their bed, TV and lights, and now that he can sync Google Assistant with his MyPermobil app, he can also check what his wheelchair’s battery charge is, how far he can travel and how often he has repositioned each day. “This app allows me to be more independent,” he said. The MyPermobil app, which comes standard on all Permobil M & F Series Corpus & Corpus VS wheelchairs, communicates directly with a user’s power wheelchair through an integrated SIM card to provide the most up-to-date information. Because even voice-activated technologies can have challenges when a user’s speech is difficult to understand, Huhn participated in Project Euphonia, a Google initiative helping people with atypical speech be better understood by analyzing speech recordings to train speech recognition models. 

Associations host events with VGM platform 

WATERLOO, Iowa – Nine state and regional associations have leveraged VGM Education’s virtual conference platform called SABA to host events during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to support from a number of VGM divisions, plus vendor partners like GCE, Medline, SoClean, Brightree, Philips Respironics and NCART, the events were held with little cost to the state associations. “The only cost that the associations had to absorb was the cost of the CEUs, which was $10 per person,” VGM stated in a press release. “The average amount of revenue these conferences generated for the associations was $3,620.61. The average amount of participants for each conference was 130.” The following associations have leveraged VGM to host events: CAMES, TexMEP, ACMESA, HOMES, PAMES, NEMEP, PAMS, MAMES and Great Lakes. In addition to educations, the SABA platform included virtual exhibit booths for vendor partners. “The platform allowed us to connect with our membership and provide them with the best experience possible, next to being in person,” said Beth Bowen, executive director of ACMESA, FAHCS, ATHOMS and NEMEP. “We all know that meeting face-to-face proves to be the most productive, but when that isn’t an option, this platform provided the benefits we needed and allowed us to engage with our membership.” 

Jury charges four for scheme involving telehealth, braces 

GROVE CITY, Ohio – A federal grand jury has returned a 24-count indictment charging four individuals for their roles in an alleged fraud scheme that led to more than $20 million in false claims to the Medicare program, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio. Two defendants, Elizabeth Baljak and Megan Ilg are accused of signing prescriptions for medical braces regardless of medical necessity, without a physical exam and frequently without any contact with beneficiaries while working for telemedicine companies. They allegedly transferred prescriptions to medical marketing companies, including one owned by Thomas Mox, another defendant, who would allegedly use them as part of unlawful leads sold to DME companies. Ryan Casady, another defendant, and others are accused of providing bribes and kickbacks to Mox in exchange for the leads, which they would then be used to order braces for beneficiaries. An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are entitled to a fair trial during which it will be the government’s burden to prove guild beyond a reasonable doubt. 

CarepathRx expands health system’s home infusion offerings 

MERCER ISLAND, Wash. – CarepathRx, a provider of pharmacy and medication management solutions, has announced a new home infusion partnership with Allied Health Solutions, part of the West Virginia University Medicine health system. The multi-year agreement will expand patient access to home infusion therapies to include both acute and specialty infusion medications. “Our partnership with WVU Medicine expands clinical services beyond their hospital walls and offers a new and unique service to the community,” said Keith Crawford, chief strategy officer at CarepathRx. “Our turnkey home infusion program will help WVU Medicine build operational capabilities, achieve appropriate compliance and accreditation, and refine transition of care oversight, while providing full-service back-office and revenue cycle management.” WVU Medicine, the affiliated academic medical system of West Virginia University, includes more than 20 hospitals and institutions across West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania. WVU Medicine is expected to begin providing home infusion services Aug. 1. CarepathRx serves more than 15 health systems and 600 hospitals with more than 1,500 employees nationwide.


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