Stand in the Gap
Your HME advocacy efforts on social media truly save lives. Here’s a story of how early Facebook advocacy efforts made meaningful impact.
- By Lisa Wells
- Mar 01, 2020
In the late 2000s, when most social media users were still playing on MySpace, a small group of HME providers started exploring Facebook. They recognized the new world of Facebook might be the ticket to creating online peer support for people who were adjusting to a traumatic injury or a progressive medical condition. Back then, Facebook was relatively free of charge and offered astronomical content reach, much like the stunning engagement that TikTok enjoys today.
I’ve previously described the clinical reasoning for choosing Facebook at that time to launch a support page for spinal cord injury survivors, but since we’re now a decade down the road with Facebook, I can share a few of the life-changing impacts that this type of HME Advocacy has had on so many people across our community.
A Simple Email Asking for Help
When I began my first peer support group on Facebook in 2009, it was difficult to determine the ROI so that we couldn’t easily measure the good that was coming out of our social media program. When you’re the first in an industry to do something new, baseline comparison metrics aren’t available. I felt it was important, though, so I decided to share posts on my personal time at home.
It turns out, the ROI is huge, and the effort is important.
When I continued posting social media support on my own, a shift began: Quiet emails from friends and relatives of SCI survivors who had seen our Facebook page started coming in. Those families were desperately looking for solace for their loved ones.
Many of those emails — that I spent hours answering alone in my living room — were heart-wrenching stories of loss and emotional struggle. The challenge of supporting those concerns by myself was almost more than I could handle, and I began questioning whether it was worth doing.
Then, I received a Facebook message from a mother who was justifiably fretful about her teenager who recently had been paralyzed in an unexpected accident. She asked if we knew of anyone in a similar situation in Minnesota who could visit him. She was afraid he was losing his drive for life and was scared he might take drastic action.
It was 11 p.m. on a Wednesday evening, but given the issue, I didn’t hesitate to call one of my previous employer’s founders, Bert Burns, to ask for help. Bert, himself a person with quadriplegia, hopped online that same night to assist the family in finding local resources and friends who understood. He called the young man later too, and they spent some time talking through big issues.
At that moment, I realized how we, as HME providers, were offering peer support and advocacy on social media in a way that tangibly improves and saves lives.
A Full Circle of Gratitude and Growth
I’m sorry to say I lost track of that email, as hundreds more have come in over the years since with similar requests for help in finding connections and hope. I never thought I’d ever know what happened to this kind, young man and his loving, supportive family.
So, you can imagine my astonishment two years ago, as I was teaching a room full of Spina Bifida Association chapter leaders, when one of the attendees jumped out of her seat and exclaimed, “That was YOU?!”
It was indeed me.
The young woman who was standing before me, sobbing in sheer amazement, was the sister of the teenager in Minnesota. After her brother’s life changed due to paralysis, the entire family’s life changed too. His sister took his recovery journey to heart, refocusing her career on serving other families who are impacted by paralysis.
Today, you’ll recognize this incredibly-talented sister as Nora Henle, the national director of marketing for the Spina Bifida Association of America.
As far as ROI for our collective social media efforts, I can legitimately show you countless HME customer relationships today that began with a simple email or online chat via Facebook. Those relationships and their related business will continue to grow online — but they will shift to new platforms and new channels.
One constant you can count on, though, is a community of people who are still searching for hope and resources. They’d love to meet you too.
Stand in the Gap with Us
Nora and I have both intentionally chosen the path of serving people with disabilities as our life’s work. Like so many people who work in HME, we’ve been personally impacted by the heartache and frustration that comes with a serious diagnosis for a loved one who now requires ongoing HME services and support.
Unfortunately, for many families served by the Spina Bifida Association, those challenges are compounded by bad insurance policies and a lack of legislative support. For example, a significant number of SBA families are currently struggling due to an absurdity within their United Healthcare plan that states the insurer will not cover catheters. Can you imagine not being able to go to the bathroom because your health insurance won’t let you? And if you would like to, you’ll need to pay cash in the range of $100 to $500 per month for the ability to do so?
Yes, that’s insane. Yes, it’s happening every day.
As an HME professional, you already know that’s not a reflective policy of appropriate healthcare access. Basic coverage of medical products needed for essential body functions is the purpose of health insurance.
To stop the madness, we need your help. Please partner with AAHomecare plus local chapters of the Spina Bifida Association to fund their efforts in reversing bad policy decisions as they fight the issue head-on.
Nora and I both thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your decision to make a tangible difference in the lives of the families we serve!
Chart Your Social Media Path at Medtrade Spring
If you’d like to learn more ways to positively engage and support HME customers, join us at Medtrade Spring on March 3 in Las Vegas!
I’ll be facilitating a four-hour Medtrade Spring workshop, free of charge for attendees, thanks to the generous support of Cure Medical. We’re covering the topic of Whole Person Marketing with an emphasis on how to properly support HME customers with physical, social and emotional support.
Special guest speakers include Rollettes founder and social media star Chelsie Hill; the Seated Nurse Andrea Dalzell, RN, BSN; industry advocate Madonna Long; and National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology (NCART) director of communications Mickae Lee, with more surprises in store.
Seating is very limited, so reserve yours now at www.medtrade.com.
Can’t attend? Stay tuned as my fifth book, “Whole Person Marketing: A Guidebook for Healthcare Marketers,” will be available soon too, with free copies available for HME professionals.
This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of HME Business.
Lisa Wells is vice president of marketing for intermittent catheter manufacturer Cure Medical. She has authored four books for the disability and homecare industry. She mentors HME marketing professionals and teaches at health care and disability conferences nationwide. Connect with her on LinkedIn or via email at email@example.com.