Providers struggle to communicate industry issues

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

YARMOUTH, Maine – A majority of HME providers say they’re working to make patients aware of the difficulties facing the industry, but it doesn’t always sink in.

"Customers are complacent," said one respondent. "(They're) unwilling to come to the aid of suppliers."

Other respondents reported difficulty raising awareness because patients have their own problems to deal with or they find the issues too complicated to grasp.

Still, 60% of providers continue to beat the drum. Provider Lori Sears reported that she has had to make patients aware of documentation issues to get what she needs from doctors.

"We've always wanted to take the hassle out of reimbursement for our patients, but until doctors start documenting things better, we've been forced to get our patients involved," said Sears, owner of Lapeer, Mich.-based Active Home Medical Supply.

The tools of choice for providers raising awareness: letters, mailers or flyers.

"We have created a letter that explains the competitive bidding program along with telephone numbers for (lawmakers) so that they can voice their displeasure with the program," said Christopher Tucker of Tavares, Fla.-based Waterman Medical Equipment and Supplies.

One respondent has gone above and beyond by: sponsoring an infomercial on the radio; appearing on a talk radio show; writing articles for local magazines and newspapers; and speaking to support groups. Other respondents have turned to the web—writing blogs and emailing customers.

But all that raising awareness may be for naught, until patients are impacted directly by the difficulties facing the industry.

"Now that the customers are feeling the effects, they are becoming more and more aware of what is going on with competitive bidding, reimbursements by insurance, (and) lack of patient service due to requirements and paperwork," said L. Christel, manager at Sturgeon Bay, Wis.-based Bay Pharmacy HME.




Sadly, the only way to communicate to the beltway policy makers is to flood the right PACs with loads of cash. Doctors and hopsitals have used these tactics to great effect while the poorer cousins like homecare get to be the industry's whipping boy. Anyone who thinks getting patients to call their congressmen is going to make the slighest bit of difference are delusional. You would be better off saving that energy for the daily effort of survival.

People for Quality Care, the advocacy arm of the VGM Group, has recruited many consumers, health care professionals and caregivers to speak out against competitive bidding by contacting their Congress people. They have spoken out using an email system on our website, by phone calls and by discussing their issues in a videotaped interview.<br />
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We also offer materials free of charge(flyers/postcards/FAQ guides) to providers to help educate their customers about competitive bidding in simple terms and how to speak out against it.<br />
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Visit or to learn more. Or contact me - - if you need materials or have questions.