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Prial's prediction

Prial's prediction

Shelly Prial will be remembered for a number of things, including being the “show ambassador” for Medtrade. I’ll remember him for the bow ties – and his passion for telehealth. When he was still with us, I fielded calls from Prial, sometimes weekly, about how teleahealth was the wave of the future and how HME providers needed to carve out a niche for themselves in this new market.

This is from a Q&A we did with Prial way back in 2006:

HME News: Where can HME providers find opportunity in telemedicine?

Shelly Prial: The market is a big cherry waiting to be plucked. HME providers are in a perfect position to be the purveyor of telemedicine equipment. They sit in the center of the health care network between the manufacturers, medical professionals and patients. They know which patients have COPD, CHF and diabetes; they know the family, the caregivers, home health nurses and physicians. The idea is to lease the equipment from the manufacturer and furnish it to the medical professionals who use the equipment.

At the time, Prial predicted there would be “established relations” between HME providers and manufacturers of telehealth equipment in six months to one year, but that never really happened.

There were too many questions in the minds of providers, the biggest one being, how am I going to get paid for this? Plus, this was before Medicare’s competitive bidding program wreaked havoc on the industry, when the business models that providers had were working just fine, thank you very much.

I’ve been thinking about Prial’s passion for telehealth again in recent months, since the COVID-19 pandemic thrust the technology to the forefront of health care.

Much of the expansion of telehealth during the pandemic more directly impacts physicians, but it also indirectly impacts providers. The more telehealth has freed up physicians to continue “seeing” patients, and therefore prescribing them treatment, the more providers have seen their referral streams return.

But it’s not just that – Prial wouldn’t have been happy with just that.

We’re also seeing arrangements starting to take shape that are similar to what Prial predicted 14 years ago. Take VeruStat, a new company that pays providers management fees for introducing their company and their remote patient monitoring solution to physicians, and helping the company facilitate those relationships. Or rtNow’s new service, HME On-Call, that remotely sets up equipment like oxygen concentrators and CPAP devices on behalf of their provider customers.

I’m not the only one who has been thinking about Prial. Provider Doug Crana emailed me a short note recently: “I don’t know if you remember Shelly Prial. He was an important advocate of the DME industry in the past. I think it is worth noting that HME News did an article about Shelly back in 2006. He had the foresight that telemedicine would one day be a reality.”

And here we are, Shelly, finally!


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