2020 HME Business Handbook: MSOs

How to Take Advantage of Remote Learning Opportunities Provided by MSOs

Member service organizations such as the VGM Group and MED Group offer a wide variety of learning options for providers to raise their game.

With in-person conferences canceled though the summer and fall due to the spread of coronavirus on a global scale, remote educational and networking opportunities have become the only option for HME providers to communicate and share best practices. Luckily, member service organizations (MSOs) were already accustomed to serving industry leaders through virtual webinars, listservs and other forms of connection even before the pandemic altered their ability to convene hundreds of people in one location.

Throughout the past few months, MSOs have become a crucial source of information, holding webinars on the federal aid landscape for providers as well as efforts by CMS to relax several requirements and make it easier to provide care to Medicare beneficiaries in their homes. As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to last for years to come, it’s clear that MSOs will remain a major resource for providers on how the crisis is changing all aspects of healthcare.

Beyond relaying updates and offering educational opportunities, MSOs provide a virtual gathering place for HME/DME professionals looking to quickly purchase critical items or find personal protective equipment for their team.

Now that HME employees are limited to connecting online, there is no better time to take advantage of remote education to improve business practices and respond to an unprecedented moment.

FORMAL EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES

MSOs, like VGM & Associates, were already offering a plethora of webinars for providers to learn more about billing, reimbursement, sales strategy, legislative developments and more. But in the wake of the pandemic, VGM has hosted even more online panels and webinars to educate members about telehealth regulations, CMS policy changes, and sales practices during the COVID-19 crisis. Anywhere from 400 to 1,000 attendees have participated in each webinar that the group has offered in recent months.

While webinars were particularly helpful for providers that could not afford to send employees to in-person events, the sessions offered by MSOs have become crucial in an environment of rapid change in home healthcare. Angella Mattheis, the director of Agnesian Health Shoppe in Wisconsin, said that the handouts provided by VGM after calls on payer policies have been particularly helpful.

“Even if you can’t be on the call, I can take these handouts and send them throughout my system and get them into the hands of people that need them,” Mattheis said. “I don’t have to recreate that wheel because I’m trying to create policies during this emergency, and how do you do all of it at the same time? You ask VGM to help you, and they always do.”

In a typical year, members like Mattheis would have the opportunity to attend in-person conferences on a national or regional scale. But provider associations and MSOs like VGM have had to call off their in-person events due to health concerns. In its place, VGM is reformatting its annual Heartland conference into an online series called Heartland At Home.

While members will miss the fun and networking opportunities at Heartland in Iowa, providers can still access educational webinars on five different tracks: billing and reimbursement, rehab, business operations and leadership, respiratory, and accessibility. The sessions will take place over the course of four weeks, from June 15 to July 10.

Greg Dunn, the director of sales at Alpine Home Medical Equipment in Utah, said his company has sent a group of employees to Heartland for the past six or seven years.

“We’re very excited this year where [Heartland] is virtual,” Dunn said. “We’re going to miss the networking, but we do feel like we can get more of our company employees involved this year.”

ESTABLISHING VIRTUAL CONNECTIONS

Providers are also singing the praises of MSO Facebook groups and listservs, which have served as a major gathering place for HME leaders looking to buy much-needed equipment from other providers or get their questions about payer policies answered.

Members can sign up to be on email listservs depending on product category, allowing providers in that space to share best practices and ask for assistance from VGM. If a question is asked enough times, MSOs will often develop a webinar with an expert who can speak to provider concerns.

The informal communication network is a major benefit of being part of an MSO. While Mattheis’ email inbox may be crowded with messages from providers on the respiratory listserv, Mattheis remains subscribed because an idea or question from another provider makes her think harder about what she is doing with her business.

“The pure amount of information that is shared, and then on top of it, it is so refreshing to see that someone will say: I need six ventilators, does anybody have them? Will you sell them to me?” Mattheis said. “And all of a sudden, you’ll get four or five responses from people who have them. It makes me feel good about the industry that I’m in, and it’s also super knowledgeable and keeps my compliance level high.”

SHARING PROVIDER STORIES

Beyond the benefits of connecting more with fellow providers across the country, joining a MSO and actively participating in its communication channels has an added benefit: providing VGM and other MSOs with success stories and challenges they can present to Congressional representatives and CMS as they advocate for the HME industry.

Each new member of a MSO gives those groups a more accurate representation of the industry that they can bring into government meetings. With the coronavirus pushing more patients to seek home health solutions, MSOs will play a large role in showing government officials how the HME industry has helped patients stay healthy without visiting a doctor’s office or hospital.

That’s why Dunn has simple advice for providers: “Participate. It’s a large group of providers all across the country, and we need more and more DMEs and HMEs to contribute.”

POINTS TO REMEMBER

  • Member service organizations (MSOs) offer a variety of formal education opportunities, particularly with webinars on sales, billing, CMS policies and specific industry sectors like complex rehab.
  • The frequency of webinars has gone up during the COVID-19 pandemic as providers require updates on federal funding and relaxed Medicare requirements.
  • Provider members are also taking advantage of informal communication networks in MSO Facebook groups and listservs, where HME leaders are forging connections with other providers and exchanging ideas as well as equipment.
  • With in-person conferences canceled, MSOs like VGM are offering virtual webinars and panels so that HME employees can still learn about topics like business operations, respiratory and billing.

LEARN MORE

Find more information about MSOs in the industry by visiting VGM & Associates at vgm.com and The MED Group at medgroup.com. Specific coronavirus resources from VGM and its associated communities can be found at vgm.com/coronavirus

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of HME Business.

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