Public affairs

Friday, February 29, 2008

Q. In light of unfriendly media reports, what can the HME industry do to get more positive press coverage? (Part 2 of 2)
A. Part 1 suggested an exercise in journalistic jujitsu--taking seemingly negative stories and creating opportunities to position the HME industry in a positive light.
Remember that journalists view themselves as impartial truth seekers. Simply criticizing a story (playing defense) is usually met with countercharges of "blaming the messenger."
South Florida DME fraud stories, for example, are irritating when they create the impression that the DME industry is corrupt. A defensive reaction cries "foul" and castigates the reporter for not getting it right.
An offensive strategy applauds the reporter for calling attention to an important story and expresses the support of legitimate DME providers for weeding out corruption and protecting Medicare dollars to meet legitimate needs. If we're not part of the problem, we need to be identified as part of the solution.
Playing offense with issues such as competitive bidding, even at this late stage, can have an impact on the program. As more congressmen and senators look at this scheme extending to their states, a new opportunity presents itself to clearly and accurately explain the impacts of the program.
Storylines abound and should be pitched to local media. Loss of patient choice; confusion for seniors; the threat to small business--these are all legitimate stories that are of local interest. At the end of the day, most congressmen care more about what is in their hometown gazette than the Washington Post.
The HME industry desperately needs to position people as "reliable sources" on important healthcare issues that have a DME component.
Many of these issues can be managed to the benefit of our industry, but it will take unity of purpose at both the federal and state levels. Supporting AAHomecare and your state HME association is a good place to start. hme
John Shirvinsky is executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Suppliers (PAMS). Reach him at