What a difference consumers can make!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Q. I've heard about other providers getting their patients to take part in lobbying events. How do we do this?
A. The importance of involving patients in our lobbying efforts can't be stressed enough. One of the most important services you can offer your patients is to educate them on issues and legislation that impact HME. This can be done by a monthly newsletter or direct mailing. Many providers include important industry information in their weekly billing runs. Whichever forum you choose, the message should be simple and easy to understand. If you are asking them to call their members of Congress, it is important to articulate exactly what they need to say, and you should provide the telephone numbers for both local and D.C. offices. When getting patients involved, the key word is preparation. It is critical to sit down with them well in advance of the meeting to review the issues, answer questions, etc. A couple of examples:
- Do you have a Ms. Wheelchair in your state? In 2005, NEMED brought Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts to the AAHomecare Legislative Conference. What a difference she made! Everyone wanted to talk to her. "We" (industry representatives) talk about issues and concerns; "they" (constituents) talk about personal experiences.
- In a recent legislative meeting, a New England provider brought an oxygen patient who is concerned about the forced ownership of oxygen equipment. The patient had held a meeting with family members and instructed them to call their congressmen; he then went door-to-door in his neighborhood and collected 500 signatures. He also had his family members collect signatures outside supermarkets and shopping centers.
It is important to educate the people who will be affected--the patients. The more successful we are at making their voices heard, the better off we will all be.


Karyn Estrella is executive director of the New England Medical Equipment Dealers (NEMED) association. Reach her at 508-993-0700 or karyn@nemed.org.