In brief: Azar willing to work on HME, Permobil buys part of Ottobock

 - 
Friday, January 12, 2018

WASHINGTON – Alex Azar, the nominee for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, has verbally agreed to work with congressional leaders to address issues that are negatively impacting the HME industry.

During a Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 9, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., asked Azar if he would work with the Office of Management and Budget to “quickly approve” an interim final rule that would provide relief from Medicare’s competitive bidding program in non-bid areas. The rule has been sitting at the OMB since October.

“Yes, senator, I would be happy to work on those issues,” Azar told Thune.

The IFR would extend a delay to a second round of reimbursement cuts in non-bid areas to Aug. 1, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2018.

Thune, a member of the influential Finance Committee, has been a long-time champion for the industry’s efforts to provide relief to non-bid areas. Last year, he spearheaded a sign-on letter in the Senate asking then HHS Secretary Tom Price to use his regulatory authority to provide relief. It garnered 48 signatures.

During the hearing, Thune also asked Azar if he would also work to complete a report on beneficiary access required by the 21st Century Cures Act. He said HHS was supposed to complete the report by Jan. 12, 2017.

Permobil further expands custom seating biz

LEBANON, Tenn. – Permobil will acquire the business assets of OBSS and NUTEC, Ottobock’s custom seating businesses, it announced Jan. 10.

The deal will further expand Permobil’s offering in the seating and positioning market in the U.S. and Canada, company officials say.

“We see tremendous potential in custom seating to improve health outcomes and achieve clinical objectives for individuals with complex needs,” says Tom Borcherding, president of Permobil Seating and Positioning.

Complementing the deal, Permobil has recently established a dedicated and clinically focused sales team in the U.S. to better support its seating and positioning business.

Permobil expects the deal to close by the end of the month.

This is the third acquisition Permobil has made in the seating and positioning market in the past few years. Most recently, in October, the company announced it had acquired Bozeman, Mont.-based Comfort Company. In 2015, Permobil acquired Belleville, Ill.-based The ROHO Group.

ResMed debuts Mobi

SAN FRANCISCO – ResMed has formally introduced its first portable oxygen concentrator to the market. The company says Mobi will be available to U.S. patients through their HME providers later this quarter, and it is pursuing clearance to sell in other countries in 2018. “We have focused decades of patient-centered ResMed technology and design innovation into this POC," said ResMed CEO Mick Farrell. "We've achieved great mobility, comfort and therapy quality in sleep apnea treatment with AirMini, the world's smallest PAP device. Mobi offers that same great balance to the many millions of people who rely on supplemental oxygen to enjoy their highest quality of life." ResMed technically entered the home oxygen therapy market in 2016 when it bought Austin, Texas-based Inova Technologies, the manufacturer of the LifeChoice Activox, an ultra-light POC, and the Activox DUO2, an integrated stationary and POC system.

Philips embeds telehealth services into solutions

AMSTERDAM and BOSTON – Royal Philips and American Well, a telehealth provider, have signed a new strategic partnership to jointly deliver virtual care solutions around the world. Through the partnership, the two companies will work to embed American Well’s mobile telehealth services into an array of Philips solutions, spanning personal health and wellness, population health management and clinical programs. “Philips brings great consumer professional devices and programs, coupled with powerful analytics,” said Ido Schoenberg, M.D., chairman and CEO of American Well. “With the addition of telehealth, they can now offer everything from data collection to care provision and clinical intervention.” The first Philips solution to have American Well’s mobile telehealth services embedded in it: the uGrow parenting app. American Well is the telehealth infrastructure behind the largest payers, hospitals and employers in the U.S., which collectively service more than 150 million Americans, Philips says. “American Well already collaborates with many of the largest insurers and healthcare providers in the U.S., offering great opportunities for joint business development with the aim to create a better patient experience in this important new area of digital healthcare delivery,” said Jeroen Tas, chief innovation & strategy officer at Philips.

Second CGM receives Medicare approval

ABBOTT PARK, Ill. – The FreeStyle Libre System is the second continuous glucose monitoring system approved for Medicare coverage. The Abbott-manufactured system requires no user calibration, reading glucose levels via a sensor worn on the upper arm. Users simply wave a reader over the sensor to get a reading. CMS in early 2017 approved certain CGMs as DME as long as they are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in place of a blood glucose monitor for making treatment decisions. The first such system approved: the Dexcom 5.

SoClean scales with investment backing

OXFORD, Mass. – SoClean, which makes CPAP sanitizing devices, has secured investment backing from DW Healthcare Partners. The funding will allow SoClean, which quadrupled sales in 2017, to scale the company, according to a press release. “DW Healthcare Partners is ideally suited to take us to the next level,” said Robert Wilkins, CEO of SoClean. “Their seasoned healthcare investment team is dedicated to accelerating SoClean's growth to maximize our value. We are confident that the best is yet to come for SoClean in 2018 and beyond.” Toronto-based DW Healthcare Partners is a healthcare-focused private equity firm that specializes in scaling mid-sized companies. “SoClean has revolutionized the way that CPAP machines are cleaned,” said Andrew Carragher, co-founder and managing partner of DW Healthcare Partners. “We are excited to back a product that provides such substantial value to its users.”

Invacare seeks another move to France

ELYRIA, Ohio – Invacare is considering relocating the production of Küschall manual wheelchairs from its facility in Witterswil, Switzerland, to its facility in Fondettes, France, according to a Form 8-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Jan. 11. Invacare hopes to complete the move, which it believes will allow it to better optimize the Fondettes facility, by mid-year 2018. By Swiss law, however, Invacare must first perform a “consultation procedure” with the potentially affected employees. That procedure is expected to last through Jan. 30. Invacare announced plans to shift production of its Invacare Rea manual wheelchairs from its facility in Dïo, Sweden, to its facility in Fondettes in July 2017.

Goalie Jim Craig joins Numotion’s team

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – Numotion has announced a three-year partnership with U.S. Hockey “Miracle on Ice” goalie Jim Craig. The company is bringing in Craig to create motivational content for its website to inspire customers and employees, and to help create awareness for issues of those living with mobility disabilities. “In my years as a motivational speaker, I’ve learned that the power of dreaming, setting goals and having determination does indeed make a difference in a person’s outlook on life,” said Craig, a U.S. Hockey gold medalist. “There’s power in hope and I look forward to bringing just that to Numotion’s customers, employees and anyone faced with challenges.” Craig first became involved with Numotion when he was invited to speak at the company’s annual National Leadership Conference. Craig also accompanied Numotion leadership to Capitol Hill to help shine a light on the importance of complex rehab technology.

Ottobock to partner with para-athletes

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Ottobock will provide equipment to para-athletes at the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang and the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, it announced today. “Our team of experts incorporating orthotics and prosthetics professionals, wheelchair technicians and welders, will be available to repair and service prostheses, orthoses and wheelchairs so the athletes can concentrate fully on their performance in the competition,” said Thomas Much, Ottobock managing director, in a press release. Ottobock is the longest serving partner to the Paralympic Games.

NRRTS seeks nominations

LUBBOCK, Texas – NRRTS is accepting nominations for four awards: the Leadership Award, Distinguished Service Award, Consumer Advocate Award and Simon Margolis Award. “The NRRTS board of directors wish to recognize certain individuals and groups who have contributed to the advancement of CRT through leadership, advocacy or distinguished service,” the organization stated. NRRTS will accept nominations until midnight on Feb. 28 and will present the awards at the 2018 NRRTS/NCART Conference in Washington, D.C., on April 25. For more information, including award requirements, go here.

Short takes: BioScrip, Rotech

Denver-based BioScrip can now dispense and administer HEMLIBRA, a treatment for routine prophylaxis approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drug helps to prevent or reduce the frequency of bleeding episodes in adult and pediatric patients with hemophilia A with factor VIII inhibitors. “BioScrip continues to expand our therapy offering to better care for the patients that we support,” said Robert Roose, senior vice president and chief procurement officer. “Receiving the approval to dispense and administer HEMLIBRA underscores the fact that BioScrip is a destination of choice for our manufacturers.” BioScrip will provide HEMLIBRA in the patient’s home or in an infusion setting, depending on the patient’s care plan and conditions….Made4Net, a global provider of supply chain software solutions, has released a case study showing how Rotech Healthcare optimized its inventory levels and fulfillment process using WarehouseExpert WMS. Where Made4net made the biggest difference: inventory accuracy and visibility. Rotech’s previous manual reporting inserted delays and could lead to inaccurate counts. “It was all manual, so we didn’t have a way to see our current inventory in real time,” said Rotech’s inventory supervisor. “The best we could do was a day behind, and much of the time it wasn’t completely accurate, but we started cycle counting with the new system five months ago and we are now at 99.8% accuracy.”

People news: Merits Health, Philips Respiratory

Cape Coral, Fla.-based Merits Health Products has promoted Kevin Liu to president and Chris Blackmore to vice president of sales and business development. Liu has helped the company launch two new divisions, Avid Rehab for complex rehab and Pilot for home accessibility. He has also helped the company open new distribution centers and increase internal operating efficiencies. For his part, Blackmore has helped Merits increase sales by 300% in the past three years… Brent Shafer, CEO of North America operations for the Netherlands-based Royal Philips, will become CEO of Cerner on Feb. 1, according to news reports. In 12 years at Philips North America, Shafer helped “a mature and heavily diversified company develop and strengthen its healthcare focus,” said Cerner’s interim CEO and chairman Cliff Illig. Cerner, based in Kansas City, provides health information technologies to more than 27,000 provider facilities worldwide.