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On the Move

by: Tracy Orzel - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Almost one week ago, Theresa challenged Liz and I to a walk-off in honor of "Get Fit, Don't Sit" Day. Since the weather warmed up, I’ve been taking 30-minute walks during my lunch break in addition to my 1-hour gym routine after work. As obnoxious as it sounds, I was confident that I was going to be the clear winner in this horse race. Until I wasn’t.

It's worth mentioning that a few months ago I received a Fitbit Charge as a gift and wore it every single day, until the day it fell off my wrist at the office. Devastated I did what any logical person would do: I offered a $1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 reward for any information leading to the recovery of said Fitbit. 

That was on a Friday. When I came into the office on Monday morning my Fitbit was waiting for me on my desk next to one of the reward posters I taped up around the office. Liz had found it in the bathroom. Since then she’s asked about the reward money once, but I suspect she knows I don’t make that much. Also, I don't think either of us even know how to pronounce that figure ($1 bajillion kabillion mazillion? That’s my best college-educated guess).


Now the reason I told you that story was so I could finish the first one. 

For someone who professes to love her Fitbit so much, I don’t bother wearing it when it actually matters, which doesn’t make any sense. I’ll go for weeks—nay, MONTHS—without taking it off, but the moment I need it for a real world application—like tracking my steps for a company step contest—I suddenly develop short-term memory loss and forget to put it back on in the morning.

According to my Fitbit (which I wore for a total of 3 out of 7 days) I’ve taken 23,087 steps since May 6.

Have I taken more steps then that? Yes. Does it count? No.

I could be reaching here (and I’m 98% sure that I am), but this situation reminds me a little of how CMS treats providers when it comes to audits, in that I did the work—I just don’t have the right documentation to prove it.

The only difference between me and providers is, I won’t lose $1 bajillion kabillion mazillion without it. 

by: Tracy Orzel - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

It might be the sleep deprivation talking, but I think I’ve just been hazed.

I woke up this morning at 3:30 to catch a 5:45am flight to Arlington, Va. for the National CRT Conference. While I’m thrilled to be here and put faces to voices (I’ve spoken to many a provider over the phone), I’m even more excited to crawl into my king size bed.

I remember going over the details of the trip weeks ago with Liz. She told me we editors usually take the first flight out on the first day of conferences. However, after the morning I've had, I can't imagine anyone doing this twice on purpose.

As I was booking my flight, I registered the 5:45am departure time, but I didn’t really understand the implications. And how could I? I had gotten a full eight hours of sleep the night before and could not fathom this kind of exhaustion.

When I arrived at the Hyatt, there was room at the inn, but the inn had not been cleaned yet. This was not my first rodeo. I knew my chances of checking in at 8:30am were almost non-existent, but I was holding out for a miracle: either the room had not been let the night before or its occupants left at dawn’s first light and housekeeping just happened to get an early jump on the day. It was and they didn’t.

Roomless, I adapted to my new identity: well-dressed vagabond.

I used the bathroom lobby to wash my face, brush my teeth and do my hair, and ate a bagel with cream cheese on one of the large couches in the atrium—bagel crumbs and all my possessions scattered around me in a protective circle. Had I an HME News magazine, I would have covered myself with it for warmth and good measure. 

It is now 3:40 in the afternoon. I’ve sat in on some great sessions, I met some great people and I’ve drunk 50 liters of Diet Coke. I am no longer a vagabond. I have a room. And I am going to take a nap in my king size bed.





by: Tracy Orzel - Monday, April 13, 2015

My mother is 30 years older than me and even though I'm a millennial and she’s a baby boomer, her emoji game is much stronger than mine, like expert level.

Exhibit A:  

It doesn’t matter what I text her, she will respond with at least 3 strategically placed emojis, adding a mixture of humor and depth to the conversation.

When I asked her why she likes using them so much she said, "It’s fun and it makes things interesting. You’re not just saying ‘I’m happy’ with words and dots and parenthesis. It’s a nice way of expressing yourself.”

While brainstorming cartoon ideas for the May issue, Liz, Theresa and I started wondering which emojis providers would use to express themselves. (Fun fact: Oxford Dictionaries added ‘emoji’ to its online canon in 2013.) 

Not to be outdone by Apple—which just released 300 new emojis with the iOS 8.3 update—we decided to design our own provider-specific emojis to represent the ups and downs associated with the HME industry. 

As the “youngest and hippest” member of the group (Liz’s words, not mine) I was tasked with brainstorming a few such emojis. Realistically, she should have asked my mother, who is not only an authority on them, but also a phenomenal artist.

I've listened to your stories about competitive bidding, audits, legislative initiatives and CMS—and put a number of them to paper—but I couldn't figure how to translate those concepts into small, poignant images. In the end, I came up with one useable idea (see the other 9 in next month's issue).

Ultimately, it's best to ask the experts: What kind of emojis would you like to see? Comment below or email me at torzel@hmenews.





by: Tracy Orzel - Friday, March 13, 2015

I love watching makeover shows on television: style makeovers, physical makeovers, home makeovers, restaurant makeovers, car makeovers—it doesn’t matter, I’ll watch it. It’s hard to say what I like about them, but it’s probably the act of passively watching someone else change their lives from the comfort of my couch. I prefer to experience change vicariously and in the span of 15 minute to an hour.

And then there's the Internet, which offers instant, instant gratification.

I just spent 20 minutes on a celebrity website—which I’m going to call “research” if Liz or Theresa ask—looking at before and after pictures of celebrities.

This one was geared toward the “ugly duckling” variety: celebrities who became more attractive over time. Obviously these sites are run by trolls trying to drive up traffic (it worked), but I started to wonder how the HME industry would rate in a before and after.

Of course providers long for the days before competitive bidding and oppressive audits. But with time also comes improvement: improvement in technology, in marketing, in design. Progress lies in the eye of the beholder.

Sometimes things change for the better (Matthew Lewis of Harry Potter fame), sometimes they change for the worse (Gary Busey) and others stay the same no matter how many years have passed (Keith Richards). 

by: Tracy Orzel - Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Now that we've wrapped up the March issue, it’s time to turn our sights on next month’s edition. Obviously, I know April comes after March, but the implications of that didn’t hit me until I started composing the monthly Product Spotlight email and typed “April” where “March” used to be. (FYI to all my HME product enthusiasts: April’s Product Spotlight will feature complex rehab.)

It’s hard to process the fact that we’re working on the April edition, when there’s 28 feet of snow outside the office and more on the way. Just kidding. We’ve only gotten 21 feet.

I’ve always thought of April as the gatekeeper to summer which is why it’s so difficult for me to accept that summer is sort of (but not really) around the corner (if you can forget about the fact that it’s 18 degrees outside).

When I think of April, I think of light jackets and 50 degrees—which is beach weather compared to the single digit temperatures we’ve been experiencing in Maine. But those aren’t the only things we have to look forward to in April. There’s also:

And (as if Earth Day still isn't enough to get you excited for April) you can also check out our Events page for upcoming HME webinars, seminars and conferences.

by: Tracy Orzel - Monday, January 26, 2015

As winter storm Juno stretches her white arms across New England, there is a palpable sense of anticipation permeating throughout HME News headquarters: the promise of a snow day.

I’m told that the snow is supposed to start early Tuesday and last through the night into Wednesday and, with up to 2 feet of snow expected, the offices are most certainly going to be closed tomorrow.

Now, being the serious journalist that I am, I would never, ever, under any circumstances, admit publicly, that I’m looking forward to a paid day off, because I will most definitely be working a full 8 hours from home. Unless the power goes out. Or the pipes burst. Or there’s a Millionaire Matchmaker marathon on Bravo.

While I assure you all that my professional integrity is above reproach, there is only one group of people I can think of with even more professional fortitude: providers.

A few months ago, I wrote a story about a blizzard that dumped 7 feet of snow on Buffalo, N.Y. I was struck dumb by how many local providers answered the phone. I repeat: 7 feet of snow. Not only did they answer the phones, but they were ready to go into the storm if need be—or rather—if help was needed. 

That said, I'll be in my pajamas all day tomorrow if anyone needs me. 

by: Tracy Orzel - Monday, January 5, 2015

The other night I was on my way to the gym and I was listening to NPR (the poor man’s XM satellite radio). The podcast was about how low-cost gyms rake in members without going out of business. The gym I was driving to? Planet Fitness. The example NPR used? Planet Fitness. I felt like I was about to read my horoscope or have my fortune read. Suffice it to say, my interest was piqued.

Basically, gyms that charge $10 a month lure fitness-wannabes like me through its doors with massage chairs, pop music and a friendly, neighborhood bar design (smoothies in the front; free weights in the back). My gym actually serves pizza on Mondays. Pizza.

In a nutshell, gyms like Planet Fitness are able to survive because they target the people who are least likely to work out regularly and are the most likely to keep their membership. I can only speak for myself, but I’ve spent $10 on much worse things. Which is exactly why I’m their ideal customer.

For years I’ve known that supermarkets used similar tricks to get customers to stay longer and spend more money, but gyms too? This must exist in other markets—other industries.

Never one to let a story opportunity slip by, I immediately started wondering if this was applicable to the HME sector. A provider I am not, but if you are and you employ a particular strategy or store design—or even if you just have some ideas—you know where to reach me. 

by: Tracy Orzel - Friday, December 19, 2014

There’s a saying, “If everyone put their problems in a pile, they would look at everyone else’s and take theirs back.”

I’ve heard this phrase several times, usually offered (unbidden) in a moment of tension by a well-meaning parent or friend and I often wonder if it’s true. Some days I think it is, others, less so. It depends on who comes to the party: Lindsey Vonn or Lindsay Lohan? Rupert Murdoch or Rupert Grint? Bill Gates or Bill Clinton?

Recently I’ve been wondering if this proverb lends itself to providers too. Over the past few weeks I’ve fielded a lot of calls and a lot of grievances—justified grievances—about Medicare. They run the gamut from competitive bidding issues to audits to denials. I’ve heard plenty of ridiculous reasons CMS has denied reimbursement, but this, this took the cake: A man without arms and legs was denied a wheelchair because one of the doctor’s signatures looked different from the rest. 

It’s during these calls that I wonder, if every provider put his or her problems in a pile, would they take theirs back? Or would they all have the same problems?

by: Tracy Orzel - Monday, November 17, 2014

Like any professional, I’m sure each of you have developed certain tricks of the trade—marketing techniques, sales strategies, pie charts, what have you—to help you do your job faster and better. As I’m relatively new to the HME game, I’m still learning what those tricks are so I can disseminate them to the masses, which I do, using my own tricks.

Perhaps after sharing some of mine, you will be more inclined to share some of yours.


1. LinkedIn is basically one enormous job title database.

Technically I have a LinkedIn profile, but I don’t use it as a business-oriented social networking service. I use it as a spell check. Rule number 5739 of journalism: Always ask your interviewee to spell his or her name. Always. Smith is a pretty standard surname. Until the day you meet Ben Smithe, who hails from 1868. There are occasions when I forget to ask, or worse, I forget to jot down someone’s job title, but that’s what Al Gore invented the Internet for.


2. Facebook isn’t just for emotional status updates and candy crush invites.

When I’m not stalking ex-classmates, I’m using Twitter and Facebook to find scoops. It seems counter intuitive to use the same interface that gave rise to “Grumpy Cat” and Rebecca Black for hard hitting journalistic enterprises, but I do. I don’t walk away with a story idea every week, much less every day, but once in awhile I come across a gem—that needs to be shaped and shined and sandblasted.


3. What’s another word for thesaurus?

More than The AP Stylebook, more than spell check, more than diet coke; my greatest tool is It means the difference between “sad” and “melancholy”; “lucky” and “charmed”; “fake” and “apocryphal”. It’s not that I’ve never heard these words before, but when I write, I usually think about what I want to say in terms of feelings and concepts, rather than specific words, which need to be plucked out of the ether. That’s where the thesaurus machine comes in: I have a specific word in my mind that I want to use, I just don’t know what it is, until it is presented to me, kind of like an all-you-can-eat-buffet, minus the calories. 

by: Tracy Orzel - Friday, October 31, 2014

Jumping into the HME industry is a lot like learning a new language in the native-speaking country. In the beginning, people are frustrated with you, there’s a lot of blank stares, you’re constantly asking others to repeat themselves and you’re almost positive they think you’re addled. Which you are.

About two months ago I set it in my head that I was going to learn French. So I did what any good student does: I bought all the dictionaries, CDs and software and expected to learn through osmosis. Hand to God, there are flashcards littered around my house right nowin cupboards and drawerswith words like “fork” and “salt” written in French. I still can’t ask for the time but I know the word for “butter.”

Unfortunately, my cabinet isn’t big enough to stuff words like “capped rental reclassification” and “competitive bidding implementation contractor.” Instead, I must rely on the patience of those already in the industry and more importantly, Google.

Then again, there is no UHMER (the Union of Home Medical Equipment Republics, if you will), no native speakers. We’ve all been in these shoes. I just ask that when you speak to me (and you will speak to me), be patient and remember when you were learning a second language.