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National HME on being a 'silent partner'

National HME on being a 'silent partner'

IRVING, Texas—Andrew Ingram wasn't looking to make a change when he took the helm at National HME, a provider of DME to hospice agencies. But, after more than 25 years in health care services, including roles at McKesson, Apria and, most recently, at Encompass Health, where he was responsible for the organization's hospice service line, the new CEO saw an opportunity to take the company to a new level.

"It's a combination of the value they brought to the table and I'm a strong believer in continuous improvement in our industry," Ingram said. "With hospice, the goal is to give that patient and family a great end-of-life experience. You only get once chance to do it right."

Ingram spoke with HME News recently about why the HME provider is the "silent partner" to the hospice agency.

HME News: How do you see the role of a DME provider serving hospice agencies?

Andrew Ingram: We're a service provider and what we do really needs to be an extension of the hospice provider. The DME is a silent partner — the transactions happen in the background seamlessly. The hospice doesn't have time to be looking at the job of the DME company. They need to 110% focused on people and clinical delivery. 

HME: What role has technology played in that partnership?

Ingram: I've been around long enough to see technology advance, whether it's how we communicate, or how dispatch interacts with customers -- it's made it move much quicker. It's also about how the technology interfaces with other technology. Whether it's their EMR and our customer software, I see we've got to be really about a true partnership.

HME: National HME partnered with New Mountain Finance Corp., a New York-based investment firm, in 2018. Do you see a lot of consolidation in the DME-to-hospice market driven by outside investors?

Ingram: Some of the bigger providers have equity partners. They believe in the industry and are always looking to grow their footprint. The resources allow us to invest more in technology, upgrade infrastructure and put more back to the employees in the way of training and developing. That's hard when you are a smaller local DME. 

HME: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the DME-hospice partnership?

Ingram: There have been challenges with delivery protocols, where we had to work collaboratively to keep everyone safe. On top of that, cleaning the equipment when it comes back to make sure it's safe. There's been additional costs that we've been absorbing. There's something to be learned with just basic cleanliness around hand washing, mask wearing -- those are things that after the pandemic passes will stay with us for a long time.



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