Reporter's notebook: Perception is reality

Friday, April 24, 2015

While reporting for this issue, I had conversations with two very smart women, Tammy Zelenko and Michelle Templin, about how referral sources and payers have no idea what HME providers actually do.

I expect this of most lawmakers, but referral sources and payers?

Templin, vice president of strategic development for Managed Health Care Associates, which owns The MED Group, interacts with a number of payers in her work to promote the company’s ACO Network, a national network of post-acute providers.

“The perception, from the payer perspective, is, ‘Oh yeah, the DME people, they deliver walkers and wheelchairs,’” she told me. “Yes, that’s one aspect of it, but not all it. There are higher end things that they do.”

Templin says providers need to do more to rebrand themselves.

Cue in Zelenko, president of AdvaCare Home Services.

Zelenko has organized the services that her company provides—clinical care, patient advocacy, respiratory programs, technology and outcomes—into a formal and organized program called the Patient Partner Program (See story page 14).

“What we do is so complicated that people don’t understand it,” she said. “This spells out the value-added services we provide.”

Zelenko has started shopping the program around to hospitals. She says the hospital, the patient and the payer all reduce their costs as a result of the program—the hospital sees fewer ER visits and readmissions, the patient sees fewer co-pays and the payer pays for less expensive care in the home. What does AdvaCare get? An increase in referrals.

“This is really a new way for us to market ourselves,” she said. “We, as an industry, are doing a terrible job of that.”

 Templin agrees.

“There’s a need for the HME provider to be seen as not purely a supplier but as an active participant and collaborator,” she said.