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Silos, recall and more

Silos, recall and more

The most read stories of the first quarter of 2022 point to a lot of changes in the HME industry right now. 

Our No. 1 most read story, “Owens & Minor buys Apria, reaches deeper into home care,” points to an accelerating trend in the larger health care industry where vertical silos are disintegrating. Here, we see a global distributor and logistics company buy an HME provider (this follows its previous acquisition of Byram Healthcare). These kinds of deals have happened before, typically in the medical supplies market, but I’d argue not to this scale. Outside of our little niche, we also saw during the quarter Optum Health, aka UnitedHealthcare, buy a national home health provider, LHC Group (this follows Humana’s acquisition of Kindred at Home). 

Another most read story for the quarter, “Recall update: Replacement devices are shipping but burdens continue,” points to a product category not only in flux but also in distress. The recall on top of supply chain challenges have made CPAP devices hard to come by. Providers cite thousands of patients waiting to start therapy. When providers do get devices, those devices don’t always have remote capabilities, making it harder for them to prove compliance and harder for them to continue getting paid. I was on the phone with an industry stakeholder recently who said, “I’m not sure the CPAP market will ever be the same.” 

Another most read story, “Succession: MSC ushers in new leadership,” points to a larger changing of the guard in the HME industry, where long-time company leaders are making way for new leaders, in this case Darrel Lowery and Joel Marx for Josh Marx and Dana McLaughlin. What does it mean for the industry to have new, often younger, company leaders? Not the status quo, that’s for sure. “We need to transform the business to meet the changing needs of our customers,” Josh Marx says. That means, for MSC, getting first to market, automating simple repetitive tasks, never being complacent and, above all, taking care of people.

Rounding out the most read stories is “Stark on oxygen NCD’s ripple effects, gaps.” Flexibilities that CMS put in place during the public health emergency have reshaped home oxygen therapy and surprisingly, even to Andrea Stark, the agency has decided to make some of them permanent. There’s a big question mark around the NCD, however, with the industry still waiting, at press time in April, for the interpretation of the DME MACs. The industry is still under the cover of the PHE until mid-July, but stakeholders, including the Council for Quality Respiratory Care, are getting antsy. 

Change, of course, is almost always constant, but these are changes that I’d argue are bigger than normal, transformational even. 

Which can be exciting, but also scary.  

So, take a quote that puts change in a positive light and hold on tight. Mine: “I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.” Extra points if you know who said it.


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