Editor's Note

The Industry That Could

HME providers have demonstrated their crucial role in American healthcare during COVID-19.

Have you ever looked at a fortune teller’s tarot deck? There’s a card in there that depicts a happy go lucky guy walking along. Usually, he’s carrying a bindle stick over his shoulder or playing the flute, and there’s often a dog prancing around his feet. He’s also about to step right off a cliff.

The card is known as The Fool, and while there are all sorts of deeper — and far less scary — meanings in the interpretation of the card, I confess I feel a strong kinship with a grinning dip who’s unaware of his imminent doom.

That certainly was me back around late February and early March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was only hinting to the United States at how bad things were going to get. Sure, we all saw the images of forced home isolation and overnight hospital construction in China, but I think I was far more focused on Netflix’s next binge watch at the time. The notion of people tossing tiny RNA virus cells back and forth every time they cough, sneezed, sang, or even spoke was the furthest thing from my mind.

Yeah, The Fool sounds just about right. It hasn’t even been a year, and as I type this column, the United States is closing in on half a million fatalities.

That said, many in the industry weren’t fools at all. From the moment the World Health Organization first announced the pandemic, many providers realized that how they provided care, how they conducted business, how they sourced equipment, and how they managed their employees were all going to change in significant ways. And COVID-19 continues to impact the industry, as our story on Accreditation Renewal (page 8), annual Big 10 list (page 12), and feature on the trends affecting oxygen providers (page 20), all demonstrate.

Armed with that foresight, HME providers began planning and rolling out protocols and procedures that would help them rapidly adapt and respond to those COVID-19-related changes. They weren’t alone, either. Manufacturers knew that they too would face supply constraints, and industry advocates knew that they would have to work on the regulatory and legislative front to ensure that providers to secure waivers and aid that would help providers continue providing services.

The result? The industry’s rapid reaction let it play what is arguably a heroic role in American healthcare. The going hasn’t been easy, but providers could continue assisting the patient groups they serve and become a vital element in the national disease response as hospitals sought to care for far greater numbers of patients in the home setting.

So why am I saying all this? Because the industry should never let regulators and lawmakers forget what this industry has contributed during the public health emergency. At the outset of every email, visit to a district office, or phone call to a legislator’s health staffer, industry stakeholders must underscore this fact: among the physicians, hospital staff, vaccine researchers, and epidemiologists, HME providers helped save lives. Moreover, when the public health emergency winds down, HME must continue to play an indispensable, integral, and much broader role in the nation’s healthcare infrastructure.

This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2021 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher HME Business, DME Pharmacy and Mobility Management magazines. He was Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy from 2008 to 2023. Follow him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/dkopf/ and on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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