'We are looking for an edge'
If you think everybody goes to Medtrade to shop, think again. Although cutting deals with vendors remains a draw, attendees these days are exceptionally keen on the show's educational opportunities.
"Due to imminent changes occurring in the HME industry, we believe it is essential to educate ourselves, as well as staff, on all the newest procedures and compliance issues. If we don't, I do not see much chance for survival," said Scott Kucine, a vice president at MedCare Products in Sunrise, Fla.
According to the March HMENews Poll: One out of every two respondents cited education as their top priority at the spring show. One out of every four are looking for innovative new products. One out of six are there to network. And just one out of every 14 cite buying product as their primary objective.
Key topics of interest this year include sessions designed to help providers navigate competitive bidding, Medicare oxygen cuts and accreditation.
"We are looking for an edge in the accreditation process," said Emmett Ward, manager of Echelon Medical in Oklahoma City, Okla. "In the ever-evolving DME world, it is very important to have every edge possible. So, this year Medtrade Spring is all about education of staff."
The show is also an exploration, for both trailblazing and prospecting, especially as CMS shrinks reimbursement and makes it tougher to be a player. Attendees are on the lookout for products that Medicare does not cover and new retail opportunities.
"Medtrade offers my company the opportunity to find new products, and sometimes forgotten products, that will help us provide a more effective way to service our clients," said Keith Thomas, owner of Portales Home Medical in Portales, N.M.
Critical as education and new opportunities are, so too are relationships, which is why Scooter Store CEO Doug Harrison shows up every year. He cites "renewing relationships in a fun and exciting environment" as his priority.
But even when it's about networking, it's also about education, as HME suppliers pick each other's brains. If Medicare releases the final rule on competitive bidding, "I am interested in interpretations as well as how my colleagues view the final rule," said James Shurlow, director of HME Service at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, Mich.
For some, Medtrade Spring is a perk.
"I use the trip each year as a reward for my operations manager and vice president of sales (and myself of course)," said Mike Kuller, president of Allstar Oxygen Services in Concord, Calif. "We stay at a nice hotel, eat great meals and see a nice show while we have an opportunity to learn from the educational seminars and see the latest products at the exhibits."