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by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Don’t do it, they said. It’s too risky, they said.

And yet, Florida Medicaid officials went ahead and gave their business to Univita Health. All of it.

Less than a year later, Univita has collapsed and patients, providers and the medical community are left scrambling.

This is what happens when you put all of your eggs in one basket, only to have the bottom of said basket fall out. That leaves Medicaid officials with egg on their faces.

Bureaucratic heads should roll on this one, people.

I don’t know what’s behind the collapse of Univita, a company that, despite its reputation as an evil behemoth, seemed to be doing innovative things.

I also find it fascinating that, right up until they pulled the plug, the company was launching businesses, joining associations and sponsoring stuff.

I mean, did the corner office guys not know this was coming? I guess I can never make the big bucks because I could never imagine being in a position to keep smiling all the while knowing this was coming.

But, I digress. One Florida provider I spoke with about this debacle said it was likely that Medicaid’s low reimbursement was a factor.

We’ve already seen this with the dreaded Medicare bid program, in which providers accepted contracts at draconian price cuts and eventually folded because they couldn’t sustain their businesses at those rates.

I’ve never understood the equation where an increase in volume, multiplied by what is essentially a negative, is supposed to add up to a viable business model.

If there’s a blessing in disguise here, it’s that the Univita story will serve as a warning against similar arrangements.

Because, while big banks and big car companies are considered “too big to fail,” I don’t think healthcare providers will be afforded the same protections.

by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Well here’s an app we could have used in the offices of HME News world HQ this winter.

The ResApp lets you cough into your phone to try and diagnose why you are hacking and coughing all over innocent coworkers (here’s looking at you, Liz, cough, cough). Illness this winter took us all down, often on more than one occasion.

The ResApp has reportedly achieved 96% accuracy in diagnosing pneumonia and 100% in diagnosing asthma.

It’s just the latest we’ve heard of in healthcare apps that purport to track everyone from fitness to sleep to disease state management. I’ve written before about how I use the Glucose Buddy app—when I think of it.

Provider Eric Cohen recently took a couple of sleep apps for a test drive. While Cohen said they both seemed to do as advertised, his personal take way was along the lines of, OK, now what?

Now what, indeed? We’ve been talking a lot about healthcare technology here lately in the office, but it mostly seems like we’re talking about what it all means for the future. A future with a big question mark.

Obviously, most HME providers aren’t app whiz kids, but what sorts of technology can HME providers tap into to help serve patients and grow their business?

by: Theresa Flaherty - Monday, July 6, 2015

You may recall that two months back, I bought an old school pedometer rather than the sexier Fitbit. This was primarily because I already track blood sugar, carbs and insulin with the aid of a glucometer and a phone app. And then only when I actually feel like inputting said data into the phone app.

Any more data, using yet another device, would have made my head explode.

Fast forward to a recent conversation I had with Andy Flanagan, CEO of Telcare, which has created a blood glucose meter that allows you to enter all of the above, in real-time, and can also take input from other sources (re: Fitbit), all with little effort on the part of the user.

Editor Liz handed back my story with the comment: What do YOU think of all this capability?

Well, Liz, I think it’s amazing, and I think it’s long overdue. In fact, I blogged about the company nearly three years ago when they first appeared on the horizon.

The company’s mission, as Flanagan told me, is to simplify life for somebody living with diabetes with as few touches as possible.

What’s not to love?

Also, I won’t lie. Looks matter. I used to wonder why Steve Jobs couldn’t throw his genius into medical devices so that users could gain sophisticated technology in a pretty package.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain. I’ve read descriptions of the first glucometers marked for home use (circa 1981) as a brick. Which would be real heavy to carry in my purse.

If the Telcare adds Pandora or another music service, I’m all in!

by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My last blog covered the Xtreme Eating Awards and the ridiculous entrees dreamed up by chain restaurants. Many of these entrees supplied a full day’s worth of calories and up to several days worth of things like fat and sodium.

While she’s dropped like a stone from the headlines, you probably recall reading about the school cafeteria worker who was fired for feeding a hungry kid, something she’s done before, she said.

“I had a first grader in front of me, crying, because she doesn’t have enough money for lunch,” Curry, a mother of two, told a CBS Denver station. “Yes, I gave her lunch.”

I realize that schools gotta take a stand somewhere, but in a country where a member of the middle class will order a 1.5 pound entrée, graze at an all-you-can-eat buffet for some ridiculously low price, or eat an 8-pound burrito to get the free t-shirt, I don’t think kids should be going hungry.

Our collective gluttony aside, did you know that 40% of food in the U.S. goes uneaten? That’s equal to more than 20 pounds of food per person per month.

Fortunately, all is not lost (tossed), per this Time Inc. article. Food rescue groups are redistributing perfectly fine food to soup kitchens and shelters. A former Trader Joe’s exec is piloting a nonprofit grocery concept in which nutritious food from grocery stores, food supplies, restaurants will be made available at very low cost in urban areas.

While the school’s defense is that it is not required to feed kids (and to be fair, they do give them three hot meals, and then, a cheese sandwich and milk thereafter), it’s a shame that our educational system is so rigid and inside the box.

by: Theresa Flaherty - Thursday, June 4, 2015

It’s that time again. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has announced the latest winners of its Xtreme Eating Awards.

I always love this feature because it fascinates me that people would actually order this stuff off the menu. Or that people sit around and think this stuff up. I mean we are talking about entrees that tip the nutritional scale at 2,000 calories.

I haven’t heard of half of these restaurants (hopefully they’ll never come to Maine), but I have heard of The Cheesecake Factory, which never fails to appear on the list.

This year’s entree? Louisiana Chicken Pasta, which has 2,370 calories, 80 grams of fat (four days worth) and 2,370 milligrams of sodium (1.5 day’s worth). By comparison, that’s equivalent to two orders of fettuccine Alfredo plus breadsticks at Olive Garden, according to the article.

The meal itself actually weighs 1.5 pounds! If you eat 1.5 pounds of food, do you step (waddle? roll?) away from the table 1.5 pounds heavier? (no, you don’t).

I won’t lie: it looks tasty in a horrifying, I can’t look away kinda way.

What doesn’t look good? The 7X7 Steakburger ‘n Fries at Steak ‘n Shake. Punctuation problems aside, this dish features 7 burger patties with cheese on a bun. I can’t even wrap my mind around this concept, and certainly no one could wrap her mouth around it. The burger clocks in at 1,330 calories and 4,750 grams of sodium.

Fun fact: the burger is only available from midnight to 6 a.m.—for the stoned, the drunk and the damned, presumably.

It doesn’t matter that obesity is (still!) exploding in this country or that Type 2 diabetes threatens to bankrupt the medical system.

Despite all the healthy school lunch initiatives implemented by Michelle Obama or community gardens and farm-to-table dining that has become popular around the country, chain restaurants seem determined to march in the opposite direction.

I don’t want plates piled with so much it overwhelms me. Give me small (and less pricey) plate choices, I beg you!

Check back next week for the flip side of our overabundant plates.

Gotta run! I need to renew my membership to CSPI.


by: Theresa Flaherty - Friday, May 29, 2015

Making headlines this week, Tracy Morgan, who settled with Walmart over a crash last June that left him gravely injured.

You may recall, Morgan was in a limo that was rear-ended by a tractor trailer driver for the retail behemoth. Two others were injured and one person was killed.

The driver had been awake for more than 24 hours and fell asleep at the wheel. Who wouldn't?

Preventable tragedies like these, especially those that involve the famous, serve to elevate the national conversation on things like tired truckers.

And, as I’ve discussed many times with my sleep peeps, the conversation on the importance of sleep, as well as a greater awareness of sleep apnea, has definitely gotten louder in the past few years among the hoi polloi—to everyone’s benefit. 

Speaking of conversation and sleep driving, a recent edition of CPAP Chat featured Sylvia Hebert, who crashed on a busy highway.

“I must have fallen asleep at 65 miles per hour,” she told state troopers.

Sylvie was subsequently diagnosed with sleep apnea, and is, I am assuming, feeling much better.

So if you’re feeling like it’s natural to feel tired all the time, please reconsider. And for the rest of our sakes, please! Don’t get behind the wheel.

by: Theresa Flaherty - Friday, May 22, 2015

I really didn’t want to go on my after-work walk yesterday, but I am really trying to make it a habit. Plus, our office manager was handing out Klondike Bars and while I usually say no to such enticements, yesterday I decided to go for it (mistake 1).

So for the third day in a row, I laced on my sneakers and hit the sidewalk. Three minutes in, I realized I hadn’t checked my sugar before leaving (mistake number 2). I pressed on (mistake number 3).

After making it as far as the library, I suspected a low, so headed back home, by which time I was definitely feeling weird. BG? 48. It should have been around 100-120. That’s low enough I’m lucky I didn’t wander into traffic. It’s discouraging, on day 3, to have exactly the minor setback I fear.

But I am fortunate that I have had education and the resources to deal with all that diabetes throws at me. Others are not so fortunate, especially in poor countries.

I am sure many of you remember Sam Jarczynski, former president of RxStat in Florida. Sam’s son Joe has T1D like me, something Sam and I have discussed once or twice. Like me, Joe has the resources and education he needs to manage his diabetes. Unlike me, he’s embarking on something much bigger than a walking program this summer.

Joe and his brother, Jake, are headed to the Dominican Republic next month to volunteer at Campo Amigo, a diabetes education camp for kids and their families, where those kids will learn to inject their own insulin, and maintain healthy blood sugars while staying active (uh, better than I did last night).

Did you know that in the Dominican Republic children with diabetes can have an average BG of more than 350? Do you know how sick those kids must feel all the time? I do.

Joe and Jake are raising money for their trip. They are about a third of the way to their goal of $11,400 and their deadline is June 13.

If you care to make a donation to this worthy cause, por favor, do so here.

Or here: AYUDA Inc, 1700 N Moore St, Suite 2000, Arlington VA 22209 (checks payable to AYUDA with Joe and Jake’s names in the memo).

Hell, I’ll even throw in Dad’s email in case you have questions or just wanna say “hey!” I’m sure he won’t mind:

For more about AYUDA, the non-profit org behind Camp Amigo, visit their website.

Theresa Flaherty, TD1


by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Last week, the American Diabetes Association proclaimed May 6 “Get Fit, Don’t Sit’' Day.

You’ve heard the reports over the past few months: working at our desks, playing on computers, watching the tube, etc., is making us unhealthy. A study published in January links sedentary lifestyles to a 91% increase in Type 2 diabetes.

Coincidentally, a few days prior I had bought a pedometer—the old school kind that clips to your belt and, at $15, doesn’t break the bank. Michelle the dietician has been after to me to move more, after a long, lazy winter.

As an aside, the teenage store clerk had to ask me what a pedometer was, but as someone who also uses a glucometer and a phone app to track blood sugars and insulin—and, for the next few weeks, a paper food log for carbs and calories—I only wanted to track steps. Just steps, not calories burned, not sleep cycles, just steps.

It turns out getting to the minimum recommended 10,000 steps per day is darn hard. All that talk about getting up to speak to a coworker or parking far from the building? It’s all bull. You really gotta take a walk. Or three.

Which is what I’ve been doing. The great thing about walking is you see things you don’t see when you drive. On a walk the other evening in my Portland neighborhood, I saw my old co-worker, Elaine, who honked and waved as I waited to cross a busy intersection. I also discovered a little free library, fussed over by a young girl, in the Deering Highlands neighborhood. (Trust me, the highlands are aptly named). Another night, I walked in the opposite direction of the corner store, and took the long way around the block. Through an open door, I spied a gracious staircase in one lovely old home and learned that the owners of JPs Bistro were on vacation that week. Of course, I negated those extra steps with the bottle of wine I picked up at the corner. I can almost hear Michelle sighing.

Walking here in Yarmouth, I discovered that the quaint yellow house at the bottom of the hill has chickens, or at least one large hen. I’ve been driving by for 10 years.

This also got a bunch of us talking about…walking. Editor Liz counted the steps from her car to her desk (90), and I counted the steps in a loop around the building (480). Associate editor Tracy has a Fitbit, and I know she gets out for a walk every day.

Our co-worker, Jo-Ellen, who had the day off yesterday, decided to track her steps that day. She emailed to say she had taken 8,307 steps.

Gotta run. I’m only at 1,379 steps so far today.

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Thursday, April 30, 2015

If you haven’t heard, Google wants you to make your website mobile friendly. In other words, if Mrs. Smith Googles you on her iPhone, your website wants to be formatted so it's user-friendly and readable on that teeny tiny screen.

Alas, this is not something the HME News website currently does, a fact that I’ve bemoaned to Editor Liz Beaulieu a few times over the past several months—probably every time (OK, all 3 of them) I have a conferred with a company that has made the switch.

In fact, I think I shot her an email just last week about this, in response to her email to me about all the hulaboo surrounding said Google change.

She ignored me. 

In working on a story about the so-called “Mobilegeddon” this week, a provider helpfully alerted me that Google analytics allows me to check and see how many of our dear readers use mobile devices vs. desktop computers to get the latest news. (Hey, I am usually pulling story stats, not parsing user behavior.)

I guess we (meaning Pete, the tech guru) needn’t panic yet. It appears 75% of our readers still pull us up on the desktop while 22% use their phones and a mere 6% use tablets.

Fun fact: The majority of those phone users, by far, use iPhones.

So if you are trying to read this blog by incessantly scrolling back and forth on a tiny screen I apologize (I also hope you’re not driving).

If, like me, you prefer to do your online reading in a bigger, more neck-friendly format, enjoy!

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Monday, April 20, 2015

While it’s typical in most offices for people to bring in sweet treats, ours doesn’t typically go overboard. Until it does.

Today’s offender: blue and turquoise (we think) red velvet cupcakes. The food dye alone should be enough to put even the most dedicated sweet eater (which is decidedly not me) off sweets. Uh, thanks Tracy.

Last week it was a leftover Easter basket (I’m looking at you, Heather K).

Other recent offerings have included molten lava chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, doughnuts, muffins and cookies.

Stop the madness! I’ve been meaning to bring in a veggie tray. Call it the straw that broke the chocolate Easter bunny’s back.

Before I started here, I worked in a university bookstore. At one point, we went through a long cycle of sugary stuff being brought in every day. What finally drove me over the edge? A giant frosted, store-bought, post-Valentine's day cookie (re: half-off). I complained in the way that other people complain about harassment and office bullying.

We’ve begun a new round of phone calls to see what’s up out there (I am in fact, writing this blog to avoid the phone). Among the folks I’ll be talking to are those who see the everyday ill effects of obesity on blood sugars (you knew I was going to say that), mobility, sleep and general quality of life.

I plan to call the sleep peeps to talk about the latest study on how sleep apnea can impair memory functions (which has also been said about diabetes). I’ll be powered by good healthy food choices and hopefully, lots of pithy quotes.

Gotta run. I need to make my shopping list.

Theresa Flaherty