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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

by: Theresa Flaherty - Friday, July 18, 2014

Did you know that tiny Yarmouth, Maine’s main claim to fame is a three-day festival honoring bivalves—the Yarmouth Clam Festival.

The festival starts today but Yarmouth residents began staking their claim with chairs along the main street parade route more than a week ago. Food booths are set up by local booster groups (think the high school ski team) and will serve up more than 6,000 pounds of clams, 6,000 lobster rolls and plenty of strawberry shortcake and homemade pies all washed down with the festival fave drink: lime rickeys.

As a result, HME News world HQ is a ghost town because most of my coworkers are there, eating their way through the village green. It’s like an official paid holiday.

The entire time I’ve worked here, I have never gone. Why? Well, mainly because of the newswire the editors must put together today. It's a good one, by the way. But, also, I am not big on fried food in general and seafood in particular. I know, what a waste for a Mainer.

I almost went today but trudging up the hill with my shoulder bag (meter, insulin) on a hot day wasn’t appealing (insert self pity). I had salad and grilled chicken. Again. I didn’t enjoy it as much as usual.

But hey, it’s Blue Friday for the online D-community. Here’s a great story about Miss Idaho who competed in the swimsuit competition wearing her insulin pump.

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Did you know that if you laid the state of Alaska on top of the Lower 48 (as they refer to it from up there), it would cover an area stretching from Minnesota to Texas? And that there are only about eight DME providers in the whole state?

I had the unusual opportunity to talk to providers in both Alaska and Hawaii this week. It’s only unusual because, from our far east outpost here in Maine, the time difference between our beautiful states seems insurmountable (it’s not, only 4 and 5 hours, respectively).

I reached out to ProCare in Anchorage to see what they thought of CMS's latest ill-advised plan to expand competitive bidding pricing nationwide in 2016.

“Under no circumstances for Alaska would this be a workable scenario,” James McComas, COO, told me.

Not only is the sheer cost of doing business in the Last Frontier 30% higher, it’s a sparsely populated state with remote areas accessible only by plane—no UPS abilities here, says McComas.

What, I asked, would happen if providers from the lower 48 tried to service Alaska (because we’ve all seen what has happened in the Round 2 areas—servicing Hawaii from Florida? Please), he didn’t mince words. It’s a logistical nightmare.

“I came from the Lower 48,” he said. “You have to be here to appreciate and learn to adapt to this environment, its sheer size and the difficulty in getting accessibility to areas.”

In other words, if you think Mrs. Smith has trouble getting a Medicare walker in Nashville, don’t even bother in Fairbanks.

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Friday, June 27, 2014

I'm not sure what Editor Liz Beaulieu thought when she perused the recent OIG reports on market share of mail order diabetes supplies but I took a look and thought, holy #@%*! It's not that a shift in market share was unexpected, but to see it in black and white was truly eye-opening.

The Prodigy AutoCode had captured nearly 25% of the market, while the so-called "Big Four" tumbled. It would, of course, be nice if the report had looked at the total diabetes market, but that was not the case (nor, apparently, was it the mandate). Obviously, if you are a beneficiary it's gotten a lot harder to find certain brands.

What, however, do the manufacturers think about all this, Liz asked me.

"How are the big companies with branded products not having a fit over this??? They're the ones losing all this market$hare!" (Jo, the $ is intentional. thx.).

It's a good question. Maybe they'll band together and raise hell with lawmakers (although, in the current no-spending environment, not sure it would do any good). They could also hustle (if you can call it a hustle after decades of expensive strips) to get cheaper products onto the market. Whatever happens, one can only keep their fingers crossed that Medicare pricing for ANY products doesn't go any lower.

It's appropriate that I am blogging about diabetes today. The online D community calls for people to wear blue on Fridays to raise awareness. By coincidence, I am.

In other diabetes news:

Thumbs up to Binsons Home Health Care Centers for providing 24 scholarships to diabetes camp.

Thumbs down to yet another media story that refers to a "diabetes sufferer." The "sufferer" in question plans to cycle 2,800 miles across America for charity. I don't "suffer" from diabetes. I do however, frequently find myself annoyed, confused or resigned to it. Personally, I think I'd suffer more from the bike ride.

Thumbs up/down

While I hate to perpetuate the stereotype that any type of diabetes (Type 1, Type 2 and, ahem, gestational) is caused simply 

by poor eating habits, this graphic, posted earlier today on twitter, is pretty funny.

Theresa Flaherty, Type 1