Providers swap strategies at MED event

Sunday, February 22, 2009

SAN ANTONIO - Cool, rainy weather did not dampen the enthusiasm of the providers who rubbed elbows at The MED Group's Respiratory Seminar here last week.

"It's important to have trust in (other providers), and bring ideas together toward a common goal," said Kelly Riley, director of MED's National Respiratory Network. "There's a state of paralysis facing the industry."

The three-day conference, held Feb. 17-19, drew 100 providers from 32 states, including Alaska and Hawaii. A sharply focused slate of sessions covered everything from ABNs to stress management, but it was the chance to meet with other providers that drew most attendees to Texas.

"We want to know what's happening and see everybody else's perspective," said Penny Girard of All Star Oxygen Services in Concord, Calif.

MED structures the conference to maximize networking. Providers shared round tables and mingled between sessions. Attendees made lists of new respiratory "partners" to be eligible for $25 gift cards.

The show's smaller size appealed to provider Joe Roberson.

"This is more concentrated, more organized then Medtrade," said Roberson of Freedom2go in Abilene, Texas. "I can bounce ideas off the wall with other providers and see what's worked for them."

Attendees could also earn up to 14 continued respiratory care education (CRCE) units awarded by the American Association of Respiratory Care.

Not surprisingly, one of the hottest issues on the minds of attendees: the 36-month oxygen cap. At a panel discussion entitled "It's Month 37: What do We do Now," healthcare attorney Lisa Smith admitted there were still a lot of unknowns.

"I'd like to be able to tell you I have all the answers, but there are still issues that don't have a clear answer," she said.

One session where providers' frustrations were clearly on display was a Medicare update with Dr. Robert Hoover. Providers hammered the Jurisdiction C medical director with comments and questions on everything from new CPAP documentation requirements to CMS's perception that HME providers are "equipment jockeys."

"Dr. Hoover really got slammed," said Riley. "But, according to our survey, it was a great value to have him there."

Many attendees looked beyond the event's offerings to the work awaiting them at home.

"The federal government doesn't appreciate or understand what we do," said provider Ted Gress of Ephrata Medical Equipment in Ephrata, Pa. "We need to group together more. We have all these different networks doing different things. We need to focus on educating Congressmen and patients."