Editor's Note

What I love about HME

No industry is perfect, but the HME industry possesses a rare quality that I really admire.

If you can read past that headline treatment without immediately concluding that I’m shamelessly pandering to the audience like an absolute hack, I want to personally thank you for giving me way more credit than I actually deserve. But honestly, this industry really does have some qualities that I truly admire, and if I had to narrow it down to one aspect in particular, I’d say it is the HME industry’s dedication that I most admire.

The members of this industry really do follow through on their mission to care for their patients, and they do it in amazing ways. For instance, we saw the intrepid response by HME providers during the recent hurricanes to help ensure that patients got the life-preserving equipment and services that they needed. (And, as I pointed out in last month’s Editor’s Note, “Does It Take a Disaster,” the immediate move by CMS to relax claims requirements to help facilitate the provisioning of that equipment only underscores the vital healthcare role the HME industry plays.)

Reaching Out

But that kind of dedication to patient care is something that happens every day. Recently, I was trading emails with Sandra Canally, RN, president of accrediting organization The Compliance Team. She mentioned that one of her clients was unfortunately going to have to close his HME business, but that he was staying open until he could find another provider to take on his patients. Now, make sure you read that right: the provider wasn’t asking for a lead on a buyer, he was asking for someone to take on the patients that would need a new provider after he shuttered.

Sandy asked me if I knew of anyone off-hand, and while I didn’t, I offered to reach out to people who know lots of other providers. The first person that sprang to my mind was Tom Ryan, the president and CEO of the American Association for Homecare. Even before Tom joined AAHomecare as staff, Tom, being a highly involved provider, knows all sorts of providers around the country.

The second I reached out to him, he started asking around. And other contacts in the industry did as well. And within a few days, Sandy’s client had some solid options for his patients.

There’s something really beautiful about that: a provider hunts for find a new home for his patients, even though he’s closing up shop. Various parties in the industry work together to find some potential providers for those patients. Eventually, someone steps up to serve them. If that’s not a close-knit community of truly dedicated healthcare professionals then I don’t know what is.

And those sorts of stories play out time and time again. My counterpart Laurie Watanabe, editor of Mobility Management can tell you about her recent work to help a staff expert from one manufacturer provide information to a patient using equipment from another vendor to ensure that patient would be able to safely continue using it.

Another Opportunity

Moreover, all this dedication, care, kindness and community is happening against a backdrop of almost merciless regulation and onerous public policy, such as competitive bidding and drastic claims audits. Providers continue to contend with huge reimbursement cuts that sometimes force them to completely re-engineer their business models, while still making the time to do right by their clients (read more about how that kind of reinvention is occurring among oxygen providers in this month’s lead feature, “Portable Oxygen’s Leap of Faith”).

Moreover, that community pulls together. In fact, there’s a key opportunity to do so coming up. At press time, lawmakers were preparing to launch legislation in the House this month that would provide relief to rural and non-bid areas that had been impacted by the national expansion of competitive bidding, as well as rectify the “double-dip” cuts on oxygen. This bill would address two key industry problems with a straightforward solution.

The launch of that bill should occur within days of you receiving this magazine, and it will give providers a key opportunity to lobby not only on the behalf of the important reforms in the rural relief bill, but on behalf of the important healthcare role played by their industry. As with the variety of industry bills that have been launched over the years, this new bill will serve as an opportunity for providers to get on the phone, meet with their lawmakers and staff, tell them why their patients’ access to HME must be protected, and once again demonstrate that special brand of dedication that I very much admire.

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Editor of HME Business.

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