Heard at Heartland: Engage your employees, leverage growing demand

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Friday, June 22, 2018

WATERLOO, Iowa – Whether it’s medical supplies or a hot dog stand, if you want to build a world-class company, your employees need to provide exemplary service, said keynote speaker John DiJulius at the Heartland Conference last week.

“Price is irrelevant,” said DiJulius, author of several books on customer service and president of The DiJulius Group, a consultant to companies like Starbucks, Chick-fil-a, and The Ritz-Carlton. “(Customers want) compassion and empathy.”

That means empowering your front-line employees, not stifling them with restrictive policy, he said.

That message was a recurring theme at the conference, which featured more than 70 exhibitors and a full slate of sessions covering 10 tracks, including a new executive track. Final numbers weren’t available at press time, but more than 1,000 attendees were expected, including 76 first-timers.

Building on advice from DiJulius, keynote speaker Jared Johnson told attendees they need to employ the “pay people to think’’ philosophy.

“When you are hiring, hire innovative thinkers to respond to the ridiculousness that comes from the federal government,” said Johnson, a motivational speaker with 12 years as an elected official and 17 years as a healthcare executive on his resume.

Spend and demand, just not from Medicare

Demand for HME is projected to grow about 6% annually over the next several years, and the total HME spend is projected to be nearly 30% higher in 2022 than in 2017, Mark Higley, vice president of regulatory affairs for VGM, told attendees.

But Medicare will shrink as a portion of that, while Medicaid, private insurance and out-of-pocket will increase, he said.

“You’re diversifying and Medicare is paying you less each year,” he said. “The cash market will go from $30 billion to $45 billion. The spend and demand for our products is incredible.”

Medicare irks

Until that shift happens, however, Medicare and its challenges remain top of mind. During an SBA/CMS panel discussion, attendees aired a laundry list of familiar complaints, including audits, Medicare Advantage and, of course, the competitive bidding program.

“Who’s going to call a provider in Alabama for a bed in Massachusetts,” said one provider. “We are renting more beds now than when we had a contract for. The patients can’t wait.”

Tangita Daramola, CMS Competitive Bidding Acquisition Ombudsman, acknowledged there are problems with the program and encouraged providers to contact the Competitive Bidding Implementation Contractor.

“It grieves me to hear that patients in America can’t get the products and services they need,” she said.

It’s a wrap

Next year’s Heartland Conference is slated for June 10-12, 2019.

“The conference accomplished its goal of connecting our members through face-to-face interactions with peers, vendor-partners, influencers and thought leaders to experience a different way of learning—all while having a little fun along the way,” said Clint Geffert, president of VGM & Associates, a division of VGM Group.