The opportunity to affect change is very real

Thursday, October 28, 2010

We are at a crossroads. There are decisions before us that will dramatically impact all DME stakeholders and we have a responsibility to each other to work together to preserve consumer access and protect our businesses. The direction we take now will determine nothing less than the future of our industry.

Despite the challenges we face, the opportunity to affect positive change is very real. Washington, D.C., is in flux with many issues being championed for and debated by legislators. To be heard above the noise, it is critical that all consumers, clinicians, providers and manufacturers join together in one unified voice.

Here's how:

Attend Medtrade

This year's Medtrade show serves as an exceptional rallying point to raise that voice. With vested parties from across the full spectrum of the homecare sector coming together under one roof, Medtrade serves as a very crucial and cost-effective gathering place to maintain momentum and build upon our efforts. Over the past three years, Medtrade has evolved to meet the needs of the industry, growing well beyond being just a product exposition. They have expanded their scope with components that include comprehensive, subject-focused educational opportunities, government affairs forums and a complex rehab pavilion. Medtrade has also opened its doors to consumers to help them understand the importance of advocating on their own behalf. With AAHomecare's close affiliation with Medtrade, and with NCART, NRRTS and state associations partnering and exhibiting on the show floor, this year's event provides a unique opportunity to support those who support the industry.

The important additions to the show serve as poignant reminders that the industry will never remain the same but great things can still be accomplished if we are willing and prepared to change with it.

Stay involved

There is also much that can be accomplished on the home front to maintain our industry's unity and get our message out. There are a number of associations and organizations dedicated to affecting positive change. On a national level, providers and manufacturers must support and participate in exceptional organizations like AAHomecare, NCART, NRRTS and RESNA. They have the experience and resources to get our message heard and have a proven track record of getting positive results. In addition, state associations of homecare professionals offer a local forum for state and federal legislative involvement, communication and education. These conventions, meetings and shows help give the industry additional venues for information, education, advocacy and networking opportunities to have our voice heard.

Include everyone

The issues affecting our industry are compelling and important. We have the benefit of conveying a message that provides common sense solutions that positively impact legislators' constituents. Consumers, physicians, clinicians, providers and manufacturers must collectively demonstrate to elected officials how their support of the industry can help seniors and people with disabilities remain in their own homes and save jobs in a troubled economy. The value and cost-effectiveness of home care cannot be over emphasized as we work collaboratively to share this important message.

Consumers, clinicians, referral sources and other advocates can relate to the personal stories that resonate most strongly with legislators. Details of the significant impact healthcare legislation has on someone's access to the products and services that directly affect their quality of life can more vibrantly illustrate the issues at hand. Never underestimate the power that can be gained by showing the human face of the industry. It is important that we work together to educate customers and referral sources on how the challenges at hand impact all stakeholders. Take time to host open houses and in-services and get the word out. A simple phone call, e-mail or visit to a legislator's office from a home medical equipment consumer or referral source can make a lasting personal impression upon a legislator.

The challenges we face are indeed large but they are not insurmountable if we work together to overcome them. We must remember, as an industry at large, that what we do is important and life changing and that is something worth rallying and fighting for. hme

Kirsten DeLay is the executive vice president of sales management and operational planning at Pride Mobility Products Corporation and Quantum Rehab.