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by: Theresa Flaherty - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New England is known, among other things, for its gorgeous fall foliage. For the past few years, hot dry summers (too hot for us natives) have led to muddied browns and rusty reds.

But this year, after a cooler, more seasonal Maine summer, we have been rewarded with brilliant reds, yellows and oranges. As with all things worthwhile, it was worth the wait.

In the run up to the mid-term elections, HME providers and its ubiquitous stakeholders have pounded the pavement, meeting with lawmakers and hopefuls. Over and over, they talk up the failures of competitive bidding and the breakdown of the audit system, hoping to make an impression—and more importantly, gain cosponsors on both H.R. 4920, the bid fix bill, and H.R. 5083, the audit improvement act.

While it seems like the same 5% of the industry does all the work, I think the other 95% are heeding the message. I spoke with Clark McInroy in early October. He’s in Wyoming, which recently joined Big Sky AMES after years of being without an association. McInroy told me he’d attended an association meeting and, after listening to VGM’s John Gallagher speak about the importance of talking with your lawmakers, came away fired up to do just that. He’s already begun, he told me.

Sometimes you just have to jump in with both feet. (This is especially true on the Maine coast if you fancy an ocean dip). It’s really the best way to learn. I am briefly taking the reins here at HME News while our editor, Liz Beaulieu, is on maternity leave (it’s a girl!). The sheer volume of tasks that need to be remembered and attended to is eye opening but so far, I am enjoying the challenge. I am already becoming an expert on the HME Databank.

I suspect Liz is rapidly learning how to be an expert mom, because there’s really no way to ease into that role.

This month, we also welcome a new editor, Tracy Orzel, who we will throw out of the proverbial frying pan and into the fire otherwise known as Medtrade. She flies to Atlanta on her official third day at HME News.

 

by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Have you ever been to a concert where the band was great but the audience felt a little off? For me, that was when the cult played the Cumberland County Civic Center circa 1990. The effect of that was to bring the overall enjoyment down.

As the HME Business Summit draws to its inevitable close, early reports suggest it was one of the best ever. Great program, gorgeous location, enthusiastic attendees. That’s right, enthusiastic attendees really make the event such a must-attend, at least for me. They provide the energy. It’s good to meet them, good to get their feedback, nice to watch them network and share war stories.

The big watchwords this year: data and post-acute care. Guess what, your data, should you choose to collect it, can outline for referral sources just what sort of post-acute care you can provide to their patients. That, in turn, can translate to more business and happier healthier patients. As speaker Mike Sperduti told us, his mom had a very satisfactory experience with her HME provider and had a better outcome as a result.

I do think the data message is sinking in for providers. It’s the best sales tool you have and I think we’ll be seeing more of them grab at fresh opportunities as the market continues to reshape itself.

Check next Monday’s newswire for a more complete story. And safe travels. For those of you flying out, please practice safe reclining.

by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Have you ever been to a concert where the band was great but the audience felt a little off? For me, that was when the cult played the Cumberland County Civic Center circa 1990. The effect of that was to bring the overall enjoyment down.

As the HME Business Summit draws to its inevitable close, early reports suggest it was one of the best ever. Great program, gorgeous location, enthusiastic attendees. That’s right, enthusiastic attendees really make the event such a must-attend, at least for me. They provide the energy. It’s good to meet them, good to get their feedback, nice to watch them network and share war stories.

The big watchwords this year: data and post-acute care. Guess what, your data, should you choose to collect it, can outline for referral sources just what sort of post-acute care you can provide to their patients. That, in turn, can translate to more business and happier healthier patients. As speaker Mike Sperduti told us, his mom had a very satisfactory experience with her HME provider and had a better outcome as a result.

I do think the data message is sinking in for providers. It’s the best sales tool you have and I think we’ll be seeing more of them grab at fresh opportunities as the market continues to reshape itself.

Check next Monday’s newswire for a more complete story. And safe travels. For those of you flying out, please practice safe reclining.

by: Theresa Flaherty - Monday, September 8, 2014

I took copious notes during today’s HME News Business Summit. Longhand. And, if you’ve ever had the misfortune to try and decipher my chicken scratches you have an idea how painful it is for me to do a write-up after the fact.

But, after tonight’s fabulous Mississippi river cruise, I decided to rethink tonight’s blog. Instead of rehashing a bunch of relevant points and clever soundbites, I want to share why I come to industry events.

On the boat tonight, I met David Hosemann from Mississippi. David, for those of you who haven’t met him, is a provider who’s been at it since 1981. I talk to him a handful of times a year, sometimes just to chat, more often to get his two cents on a particular issue. He’s been around long enough to have an opinion on, well, pretty much anything.

The first thing David did was apologize for not returning my recent call, although he’s sure he still has the message slip on his desk (I told him to toss it, I’d catch him next time).

He just doesn’t’ always have time, until maybe Saturday or Sunday evening to catch up on stuff like phone calls, probably like most providers.And unless you're calling to cancel competitive bidding, I ain't answering the phone at that point.

“Don’t give up on me, Theresa. I get your messages,” he told me.

I love hearing from providers what they like or even don’t like about HME News. I like putting a face to the name. That’s why I travel. It’s not the education, it’s not to see the latest products, it’s to chat face to face with our readers.

This was David’s first HME Business summit (he hopes to take away some ideas for timesavers from this year’s event) and I daresay he’ll be at next year’s Summit in Nashville (he can drive to that one).

From year to year, we never know what to expect, but in the face of the trying changes that face the HME industry, it’s good to know people still care and are still making the effort to learn and thrive.

by: Theresa Flaherty - Sunday, September 7, 2014

We are here in Minneapolis and looking forward to the official start of the HME Business Summit tomorrow.

I already knew it was a good program, but judging by the attendees who registered tonight, it looks like a good group also. I saw some familiar faces and was able to put a face to folks who previously were just voices on the phone (good to meet you, Pat Clifford and of course, Chris Rice). Folks are in good spirits and on the cab ride from the airport (thanks for picking that one up, John Sphon) we had a little game of name all the cities the Summit has been held in.

Rest assured, Liz, we do not have a baby pool going. Yet.

Honestly, my only quibble with the Summit so far? We served Chardonnay instead of Sauvignon Blanc at the welcome reception. Surely, I must know someone on the inside that I could have influenced if only I’d known, or (inside joke alert) at least thrown a Nerf ball at to get their attention.

For those of you who have heard of the notoriously lengthy journeys we sometimes take from Maine to get, well, just about anywhere, I am happy to report that, aside from a seizure at the gate (not me), the trip went swimmingly. I flew through Philadelphia to get here and honestly, after seeing some other folks at gate D6 who were also headed to the twin cities I wondered, “Why didn’t we just hold this thing in Philly?” But Minneapolis is lovely (and so clean!, say many of us used to the down and dirty East Coast). In fact, I think Minnesota might be a sister state of sorts to Maine, with its lakes and forests and hardy people (although, you do have those skywalks—we Mainers just stumble across our icy sidewalks).

It’s an early start tomorrow but the commute is (sort of) short.  Check back for updates.

by: Theresa Flaherty - Thursday, August 28, 2014

I know it seems like I was just on vacation and you'd be right. But once again, I am trying to clear (most of it anyway) my desk and my to-do list so I can take a very long Labor Day weekend. Destination: Cape Cod (again).

Although deadlines loom large, (finishing up my stories, edits to my co-editors' stories, fingers and toes and eyes crossed that I'll get in the Smart Talk columns, and a bunch of stuff from nearly a dozen different folks doing Medtrade booth profiles), I don't care.

The everlasting summer I don't think is going to last (bonus points to whoever susses out where that lyric twist came from). My calendar once I get back is booked and I'll bet yours is too.

Next weekend, I fly to Minneapolis for the annual HME News Summit. All I have to do is attend. I'd like to give kudos here to the programming (Liz) and the planners (Nicole, Heather, Julie). Unless you've organized an event, you have no idea of what goes on behind the scenes: The handholding, the crying, the gnashing of teeth.

And that's just Liz.

Then in the weeks leading up to Medtrade in October, we'll be prepping our Show Dailies and planning our Halloween costumes.

All the while, we'll be covering the news. I've been given a sneak peak at a few potential items.

So you see, while my first day back in the office next week promises to be hella awful, I gotta got get out of this place for a few days.

Let the leaves fall where they may.

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I was initially charmed by the ice bucket challenge—I still am, actually—but have found myself wondering: what is the value of awareness?

First, I think it’s fabulous that everyone from Bill Gates to my coworker Heather (nice job!) has gone online and accepted the challenge. And it’s obviously working: as of yesterday, more than $15 million has been raised, compared to $1.8 million last year. That’s a lot of money and it's directly because of people doing the challenge.

Let’s face it: in this day and age, it’s not difficult to get people to post pictures/video online of themselves (although I daresay the icy water might give the weak of heart pause). What’s harder is getting people to write out that check. I understand that. I’ve let my membership to the American Diabetes Association lapse, simply because I never seem to have that extra $28.

What does the ADA do with that $28? A lot more than raise awareness. It pays for education, information, legal advocacy and research.

I have read articles about charitable events, such as 5ks that seek to raise funds—and awareness—for worthy causes. I’ve read comments from organizers who say, awareness is great but it only goes so far. It’s not that they are not grateful, but awareness only goes so far.

I’ve also spoken to women’s health providers about pink ribbon products. You know, everything from kitchen appliances to scarves. Sometimes, the providers told me, the message gets lost in the sea of pink.

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It’s nice to vacation in an area where you know the locals. You get to learn where to go and what to avoid. You eat at the better restaurants and visit the best spots for kayaking or watching the sunset. Or the local dump.

That’s right. I helped Dad do the dump run on the last morning of my annual week on Cape Cod. All this really meant was that we gathered a dozen or so bags of trash from a rental cottage (in Maine, calling something a cottage rather than a camp brands you as “from away”) and tossed them at the town dump before the next renters arrived.

I did this because 1. Hey, it’s something new and 2. Dad is feeling a little mobility challenged these days so I took pity. Mom is moving a little slower too, but that hasn’t stopped her.

Since I promised not to write about the adventures of (standard, not raised) toilet seat installation (but, “it’s all your mother’s fault”), I won’t.

But let me tell you about my mom’s future travel toileting plans.

My brother and his wife recently built a house, which my parents will eventually see (and stay at, though I know they’d prefer their usual hotel). Turns out, the new house has a toilet that is really low to the ground (of course, my 5-foot tall sister-in-law is also really low to the ground). Unbeknownst to them, my mom has every intention of packing a raised toilet seat. This brings a smile to my face, envisioning what my brother will think. This is, of course, funnier if you know him.

Those baby boomers out there really do know what they want to make life a little easier.

So, I am back at my desk after a week in the sun and surf (and jellyfish—yuck). We’re shipping the September issue out the door and gearing up for the silly season: HME Business Summit, Medtrade, etc. I am not one of those fools who can’t wait to get back to work after a vacay but it’s a good thing I returned when I did as the staff at United Publications was apparently suffering a severe sugar shortage. They fell upon the saltwater taffy I brought back like a bunch of sticky preschoolers and inhaled the entire pound faster than you can say “back to work!”

by: Theresa Flaherty - Friday, August 1, 2014

It's an exciting day here in my cube at HME News world HQ. First, you may remember my disappointment last year when a diabetes tracking app, GlucoseBuddy, downloaded onto my new phone proved unworkable for me.

Well, last night, for whatever reason, I logged onto it. I don't know if it's had an upgrade that enabled it to work more smoothly with my phone or if I finally pressed the right buttons, but all of a sudden I am able to enter all kinds of data. And, since my numbers yesterday were so good, I did it retroactively. (I also do this when I have a to-do list: If I do something that's not on the list, I add it and cross it off). I also figured out how to export reports to my email. When I got to work this morning (I have yet to replace my personal laptop), there was a neatly organized excel spreadsheet waiting for me.

I am also excited because we've basically wrapped up writing for our September issue. From the news (bills! competitive bidding!) to our annual special report and Medtrade coverage, it's gonna be a good one. We can't even fit it all in!

Finally, and this is something American workers everywhere can all get excited about, when I leave here today, I will officially be on vacation. I don't want to think about home medical equipment until I am back in the office. The only exception: If I see a Cape Medical Supply van, I am snapping a photo. Although the contest is over, maybe they'll give me a Dunkin gift card anyway. Unlike many folks, I am very good at unplugging (most days). 

Au revoir!

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Monday, July 28, 2014

I’ve mentioned in this space before about my obsession with an advice column called Dear Prudence. While many issues are wacky (Help! My boyfriend’s parents planned a wedding for us against our will! My husband is demanding a paternity test!), many are more down to earth.

Last week, this letter appeared about a person who loves using her local mom-and-pop pharmacy. As a person with a chronic illness, she sees them regularly. She recently learned she’d save about $900 per year if she switched to mail order. She’s torn about what to do ("I’d love to give the finger to the corporate bully system"), but for her, $900 is “lifechanging.”

Other readers wrote in in response and suggested she see if there are any copay rebates available or if the pharmacy can price match. Both are decent suggestions but Prudie hits the nail on the head, not only for pharmacy, but in one sense, the larger HME industry.

"Ultimately, I wonder if cutting their profit margin to keep a customer is a downward spiral way of staying in business."

I mean, isn’t downward spiral practically the definition of competitive bidding?

There is also a comment forum for each column, that is often as entertaining as the column itself. I can’t access it any longer, but quite a few commenters, as I recall, mentioned how much they hate using large mail-orders, due to overshipments, poor service and meds getting ruined after being left on a porch, say. Of course, I am preaching to the choir here, but I always find it interesting when an issue that pertains to our weird little niche appears in an unexpected place.

Theresa Flaherty

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