Providers, manufacturers rein in travel

Sunday, May 31, 2009

YARMOUTH, Maine - When it comes to traveling to trade shows and other industry events, one respondent to the June HME NewsPoll seemed to sum up the feelings of many: "It's a non-critical expense."

A whopping 80% of the 163 respondents to the NewsPoll stated they have cut back on travel to these events.

"All seminar and educational travel was cut in January," said one respondent. "It will stay cut until at least August."

That shouldn't come as a surprise. The HME industry's battling two major Medicare reimbursement changes that went into effect Jan. 1: a 36-month oxygen cap and a 9.5% cut. Add a general slump in the economy, respondents said, and money is tight, to say the least.

If there's one thing that would get respondents to increase travel to trade shows and other industry events, it's face time with U.S. lawmakers, they said.

"I'd like to see some type of event with actual decision makers from Washington, D.C., so we can express our concerns about the future," stated Bruce Sandler, CEO and president of Wishing U Well Medical in Granada Hills, Calif. "They need to hear how the rising cost of goods, with the reduction in allowables, is a recipe for a national disaster in providing quality patient care."

Another would-be draw, respondents said: Medicare officials.

"We need an event that features Medicare officials who can give insight into the thinking at the agency rather than a regurgitation of what we can all read ourselves in the published rules," stated Ken Wiese, COO of Del Rio Home Oxygen and Medical Equipment in Del Rio, Texas. "Anything else is a waste of my time and money."

Respondents would also travel more to trade shows and other industry events if registration and accommodations were cheaper, they said.

When they do still travel, 49% of respondents said training and certification sessions take precedence over state association meetings (35%) and trade shows (16%).

For the most part, respondents go to existing trade shows and other industry events to get educated. If event organizers throw in some continuing education units (CEUs), all the better.

"Education is the most important aspect," said one respondent.