The Industry That Could
HME providers have demonstrated their crucial role in American healthcare during COVID-19.
- By David Kopf
- Feb 01, 2021
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
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.