Reporter's notebook: 2018: Old foes and new markets

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Sometimes it seems as if Amazon taking over the planet and the HME world is no exception, as evidenced by our list of the five most-read provider stories of 2018.

While Amazon has cast a distant shadow over HME for the past several years, it inched closer in 2018, according to the No. 1 most-read story, “Amazon wants to disrupt health care, including DME, report says,” which outlines the online retailer’s possible points of entry into the healthcare market, including DME and mail-order and retail pharmacy, as detailed in a study from L.E.K. Consulting.

Although Amazon has obtained licenses to distribute medical supplies in most states, its strengths lie in logistics and distribution, says the report. What it is not known for is either healthcare expertise or local customer service, something providers are banking on, both literally and figuratively in the No. 3 most-read story, “HME vs. Amazon: Providers help out—for a fee.”

Gone are the days when HME providers will assemble a mobility scooter free of charge. These days, enterprising providers are charging for those services—and people are willing to pay up, they say.

Another new revenue possibility for providers: CBD. Our No. 4 most-read story, “New cash crop? Providers consider CBD” discusses how CBD oils, tinctures, topicals and edibles could fit within a provider’s larger product mix, for example, supplementing pain management offerings, providers say.

While it’s too soon to say whether HME providers will embrace CBD, manufacturers of CBD products see potential in the HME industry; and The VGM Group has launched a new division, botaniCo, to offer solutions to players in the space.

Despite the ongoing shift to non-Medicare business, it’s never far from the minds of providers. In our No. 2 most-read story, “Any willing providers? It’s not a unanimous decision,” providers weigh the pros and cons of whether to take back Medicare business they lost to competitive bidding once existing bid contracts expired on Dec. 31.

And finally, our list concludes with the difficulties providers have been facing with another payer in our No. 5 most-read story, “Tricare transition creates billing nightmare.” In the wake of a switch to a new contract administrator, providers reported trouble getting paid and trouble getting answers.