Providers flock to Heartland Conference

Monday, June 30, 2003

WATERLOO, Iowa - VGM’s Heartland Conference is probably the only industry event that offers attendees the chance to play cow-chip bingo (more on that later) and pick up some serious CEU units.

That mix of laid-back, have-fun hospitality and devotion to education has won the educational event a strong following in just its second appearance. This year’s show, held May 28-31, attracted 403 provider attendees and 78 vendor exhibitors, both numbers about double the debut event, said VGM President Ron Bendell.

“The concern next year is that we will have to cap the number of attendees,” Bendell said. “We can handle 750, but if we have 750, will we still enjoy the same intimacy? We like to get to know our members better, sit down and chat with them. Once the numbers get too big that beomes difficult.”

For providers, smaller shows seem to hit home. Medtrade Spring, for example, at about a quarter the size of the fall Medtrade show has increased attendance for several years running.

“I love Medtrade - it’s very educational and you get to meet a lot of people - but Heartland is cozier,” said Zeb Pirzada, owner of Medstar Surgical in Queens, N.Y.

Heartland speaker Schuyler Hoss echoed Pirzada’s sentiment.

“I like it because it is small,” Hoss said. “When you say, ‘Lets meet in front of the Coke machine at 3 p.m.’ You can actually find and connect with them.”

Pirzada and other attendees praised Heartland’s education tracks, most of them running 1.5 hours, three going for three hours and three (billing, driver certification and reimbursement) stretching for six hours.

In all, 78 speakers conducted 71 sessions in three educational tracks - HME/RT, rehab, products and technology. A diligent provider could earn 18 CEU hours over the three-day event, said Libbie Lockard, VGM’s vice president of education.

Lori Fontoura, JCAHO director for HomeStar Medical Equipment in Bethlehem, Pa., returned home with more than new knowledge picked up in the educational seminars. She pocketed $246 by winning a game of cow-chip bingo. In cow chip bingo, people purchase different squares marked upon the ground in a fenced in area. A cow is released into this area, and you win if the cow deposits a chip in your square.

“It’s such a wonderful honor,” Fontoura said. “What’s really funny is that I can’t even win on scratch-off tickets.” HME