2016 HME Handbook

How to Effectively Network With Fellow MSO Members

One of the biggest advantages of MSOs are the multiple opportunities and venues to network with other providers and industry professionals.

MSOs and Buyer GroupsBuying groups and member services organizations (MSOs) play an important role in the HME industry. The origins of these groups might lie in group purchasing — a group of businesses with limited buying power band together to gain volume sales discounts from various vendors — but today’s MSOs offer so much more.

Today’s MSOs provide multiple ancillary business programs: insurance, leasing, networking and educational opportunities, as well as purchasing benefits. Some offer managed care contracting, marketing and retail assistance, web design and search engine optimization, re-supply services, and help for traveling patients. They also host major events, seminars and the opportunities for providers to network and grow their business. Some MSOs will even take the lead on lobbying efforts and regulatory issues for the industry. All these benefits point toward building your business.

And perhaps one of the biggest advantages of MSOs is the opportunity to network with other providers and industry professionals. To begin with, the industry’s MSOs host various industry events, and many of these groups also provide electronic networking opportunities, such as discussion forums and social media offerings that let members interact with their fellow HME professionals all year long.

Networking is perhaps the one of the most important and least considered benefit of MSO and buying group membership. The best way to learn new business strategies, operations efficiencies and approaches to patient care is to get them straight from your peers, and MSO networking offerings make that possible.

Let’s look at some of the key networking venues available from the HME MSOs:

Annual conferences. Some of the networking opportunities MSOs offer are quite large and essentially count as industry events The VGM Group’s Heartland Conference, the MED Group National Rehab Network Summit, or Essentially Women’s Focus are some good examples. These events offer seminar tracks covering a broad variety of topics and attract speakers from across the industry who provide insights and education on the issues of the day. The sessions at these events conferences often include courses that offer CEUs. Some of these events even host expo floors where vendors within their buying groups will display their products and services. These are not-to-be-missed networking opportunities.

Social events. Usually at the larger conferences hosted by the MSOs, there’s time to relax at special networking gatherings such as dinners and informal social events. These offer solid chances to chat with providers, vendor staff and other industry stakeholders in a more social setting, and possibly create some new business relationships in the process.

Specialized groups. Many MSOs offer special groups within their membership that deliver solid networking value. Good examples of this would be VGM Group’s Accessible Home Improvement of America or U.S. Rehab, or the MED Group’s National Respiratory Network. These groups could sub-groups that created to serve specific types of HME businesses, and by making the right connections, some could help providers explore and expand into new territory, such as home access services or orthotics and prosthetics. These special groups can help you learn more about these businesses and start to get oriented trained. Moreover, some can help you obtain new certifications and create business relationships with new partners and referral sources.

Online opportunities. Many MSOs maintain electronic forums and mailing lists or similar online groups that let providers interface and exchange information on best practices and the like. This is another opportunity for providers in different geographies to share best practices and lessons learned. And many members and staff also leverage social networking tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin to electronically exchange information.

Regulatory information sharing. One advantage of networking with other providers at an MSO is sharing regulatory and billing information. Providers should engage staff and other members involved with any special billing groups or services to drive information sharing. For example, providers can share information on how different DME MACs and interpreting CMS guidelines to discover similarities and differences. This can also be important in the case of audits. When providers are not being given clear instructions as to what are auditors’ true documentation requirements, being able to share information from region to region definitely helps.

Legislative groups and events. The industry’s MSOs are highly involved in industry advocacy and employ a variety of legislative experts and staff that work to address key regulatory and legislative challenges for the industry. Those experts and their teams regularly update MSOs members and provide them resources for getting involved on behalf of their businesses and patients. In addition to keeping members updated on key issues, MSOs will organize special calling campaigns, email efforts, and even organize legislative fly-ins to Capitol Hill or state legislatures to lobby on behalf of industry calls. All of which are excellent networking opportunities. Additionally, these legislative efforts will often coordinate with state industry associations and the American Association for Homecare to concentrate their legislative effectiveness and compound the networking value.

Get to know the staff. Of course networking doesn’t stop at other providers. Build relationships with the experts on the MSO’s staff, who, depending on position, sometimes serve as on-call experts for members. Interfacing with staff can be an excellent way for new MSO members to launch their networking efforts, by getting some simple orientation advice. And getting started really is the key for new members. MSOs will sometimes host networking events specifically to pair new members with veteran MSO members to introduce them to key staff as well as other members to start building the bonds that will become a professional industry network for that provider.

Points to Remember:

  • Networking is an oft-overlooked, but key benefit to MSO membership.
  • The MSOs’ annual conferences are excellent networking opportunities, not just for the events themselves, but for the social gatherings that are organized around them.
  • Take advantage of any specialized groups catering to specific care, which will give you highly targeted networking opportunities.
  • Online groups and services are another way to network.
  • Other opportunities to network include venues for sharing regulatory and billing information, as well as industry advocacy groups, efforts and events.
  • Also, don’t forget to get to know the staff, who can help you network.

Learn More

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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