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In brief: AAHomecare campaign, PHE extension, telehealth review

In brief: AAHomecare campaign, PHE extension, telehealth review

WASHINGTON – AAHomecare has tapped public relations firm Keybridge Communications for a media campaign to build awareness of the value of HME. 

“Stepping up our strategic communications capacity is essential to our continued efforts to bring home more policy wins for HME suppliers and manufacturers,” said Tom Ryan, president and CEO. “Keybridge Communications brings a strong level of experience in developing effective messages and demonstrated ability to drive media coverage that makes them an ideal partner in this effort.” 

Keybridge will engage with influential health care journalists and develop and place op-eds in leading media outlets as well as publications that influence policy on Capitol Hill and in the Administration. 

AAHomecare will also use Keybridge to build support on major state-level initiatives. 

“HME’s important role in protecting patient health has never been more evident thanks to our industry’s contributions in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ryan. “This campaign will underscore those efforts and also make sure that the public and policy makers understand the critical need to support this industry to serve the ever-growing population of Americans who depend on the care we provide.” 

Draft assessment questions impact of CPAP therapy 

‘Additional studies are needed before we have a clear understanding’ 

WASHINGTON – Published studies mostly do not support that CPAP therapy affects long-term, clinically important outcomes, according to a 155-page draft technology assessment prepared for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Specifically, with low strength of evidence, randomized controlled trials do not demonstrate that CPAP therapy affects all-cause mortality, various cardiovascular outcomes, changes in psychological measures or other clinically important outcomes, according to the assessment. 

“When nonrandomized comparative studies are combined with the randomized controlled trials, there is the suggestion that CPAP reduces the risks of all-cause mortality,” the assessment states. “Other conclusions are not changed. The low strength of evidence for these outcomes suggests that we have limited confidence that the summary estimates are close to the true effect.” 

CMS asked the AHRQ to evaluate the evidence on improvement of long-term clinical health outcomes with CPAP treatment, as well as the validity of criteria used as surrogate outcomes. 

The resulting systematic review evaluated: the variability across research studies in definitions of breathing measures and criteria to diagnose OSA; the effectiveness, comparative effectiveness and harms of CPAP use on long-term clinical significant outcomes; and the validity of AHI and similar measures as a surrogate or intermediate measure for clinically significant outcomes. 

“Additional studies are needed before we have a clear understanding of the potential effects of CPAP on long-term outcomes for patients with OSA, whether any particular group of patients may benefit to a greater or lesser degree from CPAP treatment or whether AHI (and/or other breathing measures) are valid intermediate or surrogate measures of clinical outcomes,” the assessment states. 

HHS extends PHE 

WASHINGTON – Xavier Becerra, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, has extended the public health emergency for another 90 days. 

The PHE, which was set to expire April 21, is now good through July 21. The PHE was initially declared on Jan. 31. 

There are a number of HME-related provisions that are tied to the PHE, including Medicare’s 75/25 blended reimbursement rates for non-rural, non-competitive bidding areas, and waivers of certain telehealth restrictions and other waivers and policy changes

Senators reintroduce new lymphedema legislation 

RICHMOND, Va. – Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have reintroduced the Lymphedema Treatment Act with 52 co-sponsors. 

The bill, S. 1315, would require Medicare to pay for compression garments, bandages and supplies to reduce lymphedema-related swelling and prevent recurrence.  

Similar bills have been introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives in previous sessions of Congress. S518, introduced in 2019, garnered 71 co-sponsors while its companion bill, H.R. 1948 garnered 386 co-sponsors. 

The Lymphedema Advocacy Group is asking its members to thank their senators for taking the first step. 

“Now we need them to get our bill through the Senate and signed into law,” said Heather Ferguson, founder and executive director. “Your thank-you calls will not only show your appreciation, but also encourage and inspire them to take the next steps.” 

Community pharmacists urge reform during virtual fly-in 

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – More than 300 community pharmacists participated in the National Community Pharmacists Association’s 2021 Congressional Pharmacy Fly-In, which was held virtually April 19-21. In visits with more than 250 Congressional offices, participants highlighted the contributions of independent pharmacies in the community’s fight against the coronavirus. They also urged Congress to finalize full pharmacy DIR fee reform that prohibits DIR clawbacks and standardizes pharmacy quality metrics; prohibit spread pricing (when a PBM charges a payer more than it reimburses a pharmacy for a drug, and keeps the difference) in Medicaid managed care; address pharmacy access issues including PBM conflicts of interest and patient steering; and ensure Medicare payment for enhanced pharmacist services such as testing and vaccines. “Small business neighborhood pharmacies have been essential for their communities during the darkest days of the pandemic, and now they are saving America, one person at a time, as COVID-19 vaccinators,” said NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, pharmacist, MBA. “More has been added to their plate and though they are rising to the occasion, broader industry pressures remain in place too, and many pharmacies are hanging on by a thread. We’re asking that policymakers be there for their local pharmacies in return and provide relief, or the pharmacies may not be here the next time citizens need their services.” 

NHIA to bring back in person event in 2022 

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - The National Home Infusion Association has announced that their 2022 Annual Conference will be held in Nashville, Tenn., March 12-16, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. “NHIA is thrilled to bring the home and specialty infusion community back together for our 2022 Annual Conference,” said Connie Sullivan, president and CEO, BSPharm. “We’ve missed our colleagues and friends and look forward to learning and networking with one another in person.” NHIA wrapped up its 2021 virtual conference this week. More information on the 2022 event is coming soon. 

NHIF, NHIA honor two 

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The National Home Infusion Foundation has named Cindy Sumrall the recipient of the 2021 Lynn Giglione Women in Leadership Award. The award recognizes women leaders who have distinguished themselves within their organizations and among their industry peers while promoting the mission of NHIF. Sumrall is chief clinical officer at Paragon Healthcare and has 25 years of infusion leadership and clinical experience. In her role, she is responsible for oversight of home infusion nursing, clinical intake division, infusion center operations, hemophilia nursing services, quality assurance programs, and staff development. The National Home Infusion Association has named Varner R. Richards the recipient of the 2021 Gene Graves Lifetime Achievement Award, given to an individual who has dedicated significant time, energy and resources to advocating and working on behalf of patients and the industry. Richards is CEO and owner of Intramed Plus. 

OIG: Most telehealth claims met requirements 

WASHINGTON - Medicare paid a total of $17.6 million for telehealth in 2015, compared with $61,302 in 2001, according to a report from the Office of Inspector General. The OIG reviewed 191,118 Medicare paid distant-site telehealth claims, totaling $13.8 million, that did not have corresponding originating-site claims, and reviewed provider supporting documentation for a random sample of 100 claims. The OIG found that 69 of the 100 claims met requirements. Of those that did not, the biggest reason (24 claims) was claims were unallowable because the beneficiaries received services at nonrural originating sites. Telehealth payments include a professional fee, paid to the practitioner performing the service at a distant site, and an originating-site fee, paid to the facility where the beneficiary receives the service. 

InfuSystem enhances capabilities 

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. – InfuSystem, a provider of infusion pump therapy and other health care services, has acquired the operating assets of OB Healthcare Corporation, a privately held, Texas-based, biomedical services company. 

The acquisition complements InfuSystem’s acquisition in February of FilAMed, a biomedical services company based in Bakersfield, Calif.  

“This acquisition closely follows our purchase of FilAMed, which provides remote repair work out of its facilities in Bakersfield, California,” said Richard Dilorio, CEO. “Together, the two companies, and the impressive business relationships they bring with them, dramatically enhance InfuSystem’s capabilities in biomedical services and increases our business opportunities in the acute-care market.” 

Additionally, InfuSystem’s acquisition of OB Healthcare further develops and expands the company’s Durable Medical Equipment Services platform. OB Healthcare specializes in on-site repair, preventative maintenance, and physical device inventory management to hospitals and health care systems nationwide. 

InfuSystem recently secured a $75 million revolving credit facility to help the company scale growth. 

WellSky names new CFO 

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – WellSky has named Akash Raj chief financial officer effective immediately. Raj has a lengthy track record leading multiple Fortune 500 companies, including most recently Motorola, through unprecedented periods of growth and strategic transformation. “Akash brings a wealth of experience in leading finance organizations at established companies,” said Bill Miller, CEO. “His acute understanding of software and services and capital deployment will help WellSky execute on our strategic initiatives to empower our clients with innovative solutions that prepare them for success in today’s rapidly changing landscape.” WellSky provides technology and services to more than 20,000 health care and community care clients. 

Mintal launches sleep apps 

SUNNYVALE, Calif. – Mintal, a lifestyle and wellness brand, has launched two sleep apps, Mintal Sleep and Mintal Tracker, to address sleep disorders, anxiety and mental health concerns. Mintal Tracker judges whether there is an airflow obstruction by analyzing the acoustic characteristics of snoring sounds, while accounting for environmental noise. Mintal Sleep contains a library of free sleep-inducing audio; breathing exercises for mindfulness and relaxation; sleep tracking and advice to improve quality of sleep; and access to on-demand sleep and wellness coaches. 

Medline wins Golden opportunity 

NORTHFIELD, Ill., - Medline has been named the exclusive supply chain vendor for Indiana-based Golden LivingCenters, which operates 23 senior health care facilities.  

Per the agreement, Golden Living will convert a number of product categories in its portfolio to the Medline brand to help ensure all products are clinically equivalent and to help drive standardization across Golden Living's communities for improved patient outcomes. 

"We are honored to work side by side with Golden LivingCenters as their organization expands their footprint to implement clinical and operational strategies that help their organization run better and drive patient outcomes," said Chris Nave, corporate accounts director, Medline Post-Acute Care Sales. 

Golden LivingCenters offer rehab therapy, hospice and palliative care, nursing care, cardiac care, Alzheimer's and dementia care, and pharmacy services. 

Virtis Health expands into Wisconsin 

PEWAUKEE, Wis. – Virtis Health, an alternate site provider of infusion services, has opened its first ambulatory infusion center in Wisconsin. Virtis Health Milwaukee will offer a range of therapy management services and treatments for patients with autoimmune disorders, including multiple sclerosis and myasthenia gravis. “We are bringing a highly personalized care model and clinical service to patients and physicians throughout greater Milwaukee with the new Virtis Health AIC,” said Sean Tragesser, Pharm.D., MBA, and regional business leader at Virtis Health. “We are offering patients care in a setting that is private, warm and individualized, with virtually no contact with others.” Virtis Health has named clinical nurse practitioner Mary Yellick, FNP-C, to the position of AIC manager for Milwaukee. In December, the company expanded into Illinois. 

Mobius Health taps HRG as content partner 

WUAKESHA, Wis. – Health Mobius, which offers a retail portal to connect HME retailers to distributors and manufacturers, has named HRG its content partner to streamline, normalize and increase the consistency of the data presented as part of its eMarketplace solutions. “Our relationship with HRG ensures that our supplier community will have the best possible presentation of their products and solutions,” said Kamal Haddad, Health Mobius CEO. “At the same time, the uniform item descriptions and professional images will enhance the user experience, allowing customers a more easy and reliable navigation of the assortment available.” Health Mobius wanted to help its suppliers quickly identify content partners that could more efficiently scale and deliver product content to the eMarketplace. Manufacturers that engage HRG to provide content will be assured that it meets the highest standard with consistent, accurate product information and high-quality digital images.   

NCPA backs bill on PBM reform 

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The National Community Pharmacists Association supports legislation that would give seniors more convenient access to discounted or “preferred” co-pays for prescription drugs at their pharmacy of choice. H.R. 2608, the Ensuring Seniors Access to Local Pharmacies Act, would also empower more seniors to choose the pharmacy that best fits their needs, promote transparency so that pharmacies have a clear understanding of their reimbursement, and tackle conflicts of interest related to “patient steering” by pharmacy benefit managers to pharmacies affiliated with them. “Patients deserve easier access to affordable, quality and convenient care at the pharmacy of their choosing, without PBM roadblocks that our health care system currently tolerates,” said B. Douglas Hoey, CEO of the NCPA. “Independent pharmacies have never been more essential to their communities than during the pandemic. Without reforms and relief from PBM practices, however, these small businesses may not survive.” Original co-sponsors of the bill include Reps. Rick Allen, R-Ga., Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, Buddy Carter, R-Ga., Rick Crawford, R-Ark., Vincente Gonzalez, D-Texas, Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., and Bruce Westerman, R-Ark. Additionally, the bill would require claims-level reimbursement transparency and prevent PBMs from reimbursing their affiliated pharmacies more than they do other pharmacies. 

 ACHC launches Palliative Care Accreditation 

CARY, N.C. – The Accreditation Commission for Health Care is launching a Palliative Care Accreditation program to advance quality of care and improve patient outcomes in this growing field of health care. Although it’s more traditionally viewed as end-of-life hospice care, palliative care is expanding to include specialized services for all patients with serious illnesses, regardless of their age or prognosis, ACHC says. “Palliative care is emerging as an effective way to help seriously ill patients address symptoms and maximize their quality of life,” said Barbara Provini, a program manager for ACHC. “It is quickly spreading from hospital-based care to outpatient community-based providers, offering more options for patients. Achieving accreditation enables palliative care programs to certify they are providing safe, quality care backed by national standards.” ACHC says its standards, which were based on the National Consensus Project Clinical Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care, focus on industry best practices. For home health, hospice and private duty providers accredited by ACHC, a distinction in palliative care is also an option. 

 Aveanna launches IPO 

ATLANTA – Aveanna Healthcare Holdings, a diversified home care platform that provides respiratory therapy products and services, has launched an initial public offering of about 38.2 million shares of its common stock at an anticipated initial public offering price of $16 to $18 per share. The company also intends to grant the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 5.7 million shares of its common stock. Aveanna has applied to list its common stock on the Nasdaq under the ricker symbol AVAH. Barclays, J.P. Morgan, BMO Capital Markets and Credit Suisse are acting as joint lead book-running managers, and BofA Securities, Deutsche Bank Securities, Jefferies, RBC Capital Markets and Truist Securities are acting as book-running managers for the proposed offering. Raymond James, Stephens Inc., Drexel Hamilton and Siebert Williams Shank are acting as co-managers for the proposed offering. Aveanna cares for patients and families in 25 states through a rapidly growing network of 200-plus branch offices. It offers respiratory therapy, enteral nutrition and medical supplies, as well as private-duty and home health and hospice services. The respiratory therapy products and services it provides include oxygen concentrators, CPAP devices and ventilators. 

Tomorrow Health closes funding, boosts board 

NEW YORK – Tomorrow Health has closed a $25 million Series A round of funding led by Andreessen Horowitz with participation from Obvious Ventures and BoxGroup. The company has also added Paul Mango, former deputy chief of staff for policy at HHS, and Roy Beveridge, former chief medical officer at Humana, to its advisory board. “We believe the home should be a patient’s primary point of care, and we are focused on providing patients with the right products, guidance and support to make that a reality,” said Vijay Kedar, co-founder and CEO. “We are committed to getting each patient’s individual needs fulfilled in partnership with the highest-quality suppliers and to removing the stress and complexity that have become synonymous with navigating at-home care.” Since launching in April 2020, Tomorrow Health has partnered with more than 125 health plans and hospital systems. The company says it is now focused on hiring additional talent and expanding its infrastructure technology. 

GEMCO, VGM partner 

HUDSON, Ohio – GEMCO Medical has entered into a vendor agreement with VGM & Associates to provide the group’s members with wholesale medical supplies, including diabetes testing supplies and continuous glucose monitoring devices, and offer them access to a drop-ship, direct-to-patient program. Also as part of the agreement, VGM will partner with GEMCO Medical’s team of experts to provide webinars and education on the latest products to help members navigate the diabetes market. “We’re excited to connect with the VGM community and provide meaningful education and best-in-class products and services to help them succeed, especially as the diabetes market continues to grow and evolve,” said Richard Keirn, vice president and general manager of GEMCO Medical. GEMCO is a direct supplier partner with top diabetes and CGM manufacturers, including Abbott, Dexcom, Insulet Corp., Medtronic and Tandem Diabetes Care. 

Capstone HME expands into Mid-Atlantic 

TUSCALOOSA, Ala., and ROANOKE, Va. – Capstone HME has been tapped by Good Sam, a community-based hospice company serving the Roanoke Valley and surrounding areas, to provide DME for all of its hospice and palliative patients. Capstone HME began serving Good Sam patients and their families in 2020. “Our families truly feel that Capstone is an extension of Good Sam,” said Loretta Beemer, director of nursing services. “The Capstone staff is genuine and kind. They spend extra time educating families on the equipment and do the same for facilities when needed. Working with them on weekends has been a joy.” The agreement marks Capstone HME’s first opportunity to work with not-for-profit hospices in the Mid-Atlantic region. To help make the partnership a success, Capstone HME is opening a warehouse in Roanoke. “At Capstone HME, we’re committed to being more than a vendor – we’re a partner with the not-for-profit hospices,” said Daniel Peake, vice president at Capstone HME. “One of the ways we demonstrate the partnership is by opening a warehouse directly in the hospice’s service area – a DME warehouse dedicated to servicing that provider.”  


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