How to Leverage Your MSO to Network and Share Best Practices

MSOToday’s industry buying groups and member service organizations offer a wide array of services to benefit their HME provider members. In addition to getting significant price breaks on DME, MSOs and buying groups offer services such as turnkey marketing assistance, web site and e-commerce tools, provider networks for traveling patients, teleconferences, seminars and conferences, continuing education, and even financial and insurance services.

However, one key benefit that MSOs offer beyond the advantages of participating in a buying group or having access to educational opportunities is the ability to network with other HME providers and share best practices.

“I have probably 20 contacts across the country, not just my own geographical location, that, at any given moment, I can pick up a phone or send an e-mail just to find out how they are going to adapt to a new rule or regulation,” says Chuck Vetsch ATP, CRTS, of Keelers Medical Supply in Yakima, Wash.

Those contacts have developed and blossomed into close bonds over the years, Vetsch notes. “With the contacts I have made, we’ve literally gotten to the point where maybe a couple of times a year I have had people that were vacationing in Washington state literally come to my office because they know we’re here,” he says. “I’ve been to probably a dozen other stores across the country. If I’m going to be in the area I just make a call and get to see their operations first-hand. That’s very much encourage by the MSOs.”

Cross-Country Exchange

Likewise, Vetsch says that creating that network of peers has also helped his business collect intelligence on how Medicare DME MACs in his peer’s geographies are interpreting a particular law or case. This is important given that how his DME MAC interprets various things can come up once or twice a month.

“It has been phenomenal for us to do that for the simple fact that we now have the ability to go back and say, ‘Listen, region A is doing this, region B is doing this, why are you as region D trying to change the rules?’” he explains. “CMS regulations should be identical to everybody, and the nice thing is that I’m able to talk to other owners and get that information.”

Likewise, sharing this sort of regional regulatory experience can be especially helpful when providers enter unknown territory, such as RAC 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, Vetsch notes.

That cross-country sharing of regulatory information can go quit far. For instance Vetsch notes he is planning to travel to help fellow members this month in a trip that was not arranged by the MSO itself, but resulted from the provider-toprovider networking that occurred within the MSO.

“I’ll be out in Michigan at the end of July,” he says. “A lot of the members want to get together and address some issues with their state. We have a great state Medicaid here (in Washington), and I’m actually going fl y out and try and help them outline something they can take to their Medicaid.”

Networking Resources

Aware of their value as a networking opportunity, MSOs try to provide tools and venues that help their members share information. Obviously, member conferences and similar events are an excellent way to meet other providers to start building a peer network. Likewise, any regional or local events that an MSO might host as part of an educational seminar “tour” are another solid networking opportunity and could lead to creating a peer network of quasi-local providers, in fact.

Additionally, to continue many MSOs provide electronic forums and listservs or similar tools 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.

Of course networking doesn’t stop at other providers. Vetsch says he makes a conscious effort to build relationships as much as possible with the experts on his MSOs staff. These staff members should be on-call experts that membership should be able to access, so it is in a providers best interest to do so.

Interfacing with staff can be an excellent way for new MSO members to launch their networking efforts, Vetsch adds. 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 take away:

  • Homecare industry buying groups and member service organizations provide a variety of valuable resources, but perhaps one their best advantages is the ability to network with HME peers.
  • These professional networks can help HME providers share best practices, keep up on industry current events, and share information regarding regulations.
  • Sharing regulatory information can become particularly important for providers trying to determine if their regional enforcement of Medicare policy meshes with other that of other regions.
  • These networks can be a good way to visit other providers when traveling to see how other providers’ operations work in person.
  • MSOs and buying groups host various conferences and local seminar events that can serve as excellent networking opportunities.

This article originally appeared in the July 2010 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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