A peek at the future at Heartland: Savvier patients, digital health and millennials

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Friday, June 14, 2019

WATERLOO, Iowa – The healthcare industry has gotten smarter about what patients actually want, and HME providers are in the right place at the right time to benefit, said keynote speaker Jeff Cribbs at the Heartland Conference last week.

“We’ve always just assumed that they want to live,” said Cribbs, vice president of research for Gartner Industries Research Group. “(But) they want quality of life. That’s why the work you do in the home, as the deliverers of that last mile of service, (is so important).”

With digital health increasingly permeating health care, especially when it comes to managing chronic conditions, providers need to protect their data like the asset that it is, said Cribbs

“We like assets generating revenue and delivering value,” he said. “Protect your assets and you will have what makes your company special in a digital format.”

This year’s Heartland Conference, held June 10-12, featured more than 70 exhibitors and 90 educational sessions across 10 tracks.

“Attendees were extremely engaged in sessions, around the halls of the convention center and at networking events,” said Sarah Conger, vice president of events and corporate projects. “The mood was optimistic and attendees were thirsty for learning new ways of thinking about business along with having a little fun with their peers.”

Although a final tally was not available by press time, 1,000 attendees were expected—including 100 first-timers.

Workforce of the future

A new “Business Leadership and People Strategies” track featured sessions to help business owners and people managers navigate the changing workforce.

One well-attended session in the track, “Millennials: The Future of DME Staff,” encouraged attendees to plan ahead for the employees who will be replacing retirees. By 2025, millennials—those born between 1980 and 2000—will make up 75% of the workforce and will have different expectations than previous generations, such as placing a higher value on workplace satisfaction.

“You need to begin searching now,” said Rachel Duda, marketing assistant for Springfield, Mass.-based Louis & Clark Medical Supply. “Somebody is going to have to fill that void in your knowledge base.”

Another segment of the workforce earning some attention at the conference: LGBT employees, who are becoming more visible, says Keenan Crow, director of policy and advocacy at One Iowa, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization.

“It feels safer and more people are going public,” he said. “More and more, they are looking for validation. If they are not getting that from their employer they might look to work elsewhere.”

Attendees raise issues with CMS

This year’s conference also featured the return of a panel discussion with CMS officials and Medicare contractors, including Tangita Daramola, the competitive acquisition ombudsman for CMS. Officials urged providers to continue to engage with them on the issues they are seeing.

“It’s not enough to complain to the air,” said Daramola. “We don’t know (what is) happening.”

Audits, access issues and poor customer service, including from the Medicare help line, were among a litany of concerns HME providers raised to  officials.

About that last one: “We’ve had a lot of bad experiences,” said one attendee. “The information they are giving out is just plain wrong. I spent a half-hour arguing with a rep.”

The comment earned an “amen” from several other providers in the audience.