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by: Theresa Flaherty - Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Well now I'm thoroughly confused. I just read an article about how a new program at Walgreens that would offer face-to-face consulting services for Type 2 diabetes patients is being panned. By the medical profession.

Now, I realize there is no love lost among independent pharmacies for Walgreens. But, at the heart of the issue, isn't this sort of service supposed to  help the patients—and save the health care system money? Isn't this sort of service what's supposed to separate the good from the bad and the just plain ugly in customer service?

In fact, there has been a push in the industry for pharmacists to offer more one-on-one help, or disease state management, with the patients they see regularly. Diabetes is a natural fit. A story I wrote in August about a new program garnered several calls from providers wanting more information.

It seems the docs are afraid it will "blur the lines" of care. It doesn't sound like Walgreens or any other pharmacy would ever seek to replace a doctor's care, but rather augment, to help the patient. Let's face it: It can take months to get into see the doctor, it's more expensive and it's less convenient.

This doesn't mean I think Walgreens is being altruistic, They, like everyone else, seek to grow revenues.

With reactions like this from the medical community, I fear meaningful health care reform is a long way off.

by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Last Friday I texted my $10 donation to the Red Cross to help victims of last week's earthquake in Haiti. But, aside from the overarching needs of food/water/shelter there are bound to be large numbers of Haitians who need more specific help, including medical care and medicines for specific health conditions, like, say diabetes.

dLife, a multimedia organization geared toward people with diabetes, posted a few options for those of you who would like to donate for more specific needs. Here are two:

dLife Foundation: Supports individuals in need of diabetes supplies and education, and funds diabetes organizations with similar goals. Now through March 31, all donations to the foundation will go directly to medical relief organizations assisting Haiti.

Insulin for Life: Tax-exempt, Australia-based organization collects insulin, syringes, test strips and other supplies to people in urgent need.

And of course, there are many other groups, including Doctors without Borders, UNICEF and AmeriCares. Just make sure you know who you are donating to and that the group is reputable.

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I was just reading my co-worker's 'Wheels in Motion' blog about clearing the sidewalks with wheelchair users in mind—after all it's not just the able-bodied who need to traverse them safely.

Her blog brought to mind a little accident I had several years ago while living in Cambridge, just outside Boston. One winter night, I was walking with a friend over extremely icy, lumpy sidewalks (and for those of you in that area, you know how uneven the sidewalks are even in summer—gives whole new meaning to the child's rhyme "step on a crack"). I slipped and fell. Hard.

A woman in a wheelchair passing by stopped to make sure I was OK (my companion was laughing too hard to be of help). I assured her I was.

Now I wonder how she, and others like her, manage to get around in the winter. It's a testament, though, to how home medical equipment can help people get out and about, and yes, even help the (supposedly) able-bodied when necessary.

Stay safe out there!

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Wednesday, January 6, 2010

There's a new show on TNT called "Men of  a Certain Age." Apparently, one of the characters, Owen, uses CPAP, or as the case may be, doesn't use it. I don't watch the show and couldn't find a link to the episode. I found a promo clip, however. Owen wakes up tired and groggy, with his unused CPAP next to him on the nightstand. His wife comes in and says "You'd sleep better if you wear your mask."own-crop-2 Echoing, I'm sure, wives everywhere in real life.

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, January 5, 2010

John Coster, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) addressed independent pharmacy issues in a January 4 video posted on YouTube.

The association is still working on a "permanent fix" to DME accreditation, he said.

"Many of you have become accredited, some have not," said Coster. "This permanent exemption will benefit everybody. We believe it will be enacted as part of health care reform."

In case you're one of the three people who hasn't heard: both the House and the Senate reform bills have provisions that would exempt pharmacists from mandatory accreditation. Industry stakeholders hope to see a final version of the bill in February.

Incidentally, NCPA has a couple of other videos posted to YouTube which humorously cover pharmacy-related topics outside the scope of HME News. Check them out and see for yourself.

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Thursday, December 31, 2009

At this time of year we editors like to cull top 10 lists. On this last day of 2009 I perused our stats to see what the top story was for specialty providers. No surprise: it was a CPAP story: Providers request CPAP do-over, which first appeared back in March.

In fact, CPAP documentation requirements, which went into effect in November of 2008, were an ongoing saga this year, with providers trying to educate both physicians and patients with varying degrees of success.

This fall, providers in the first 10 MSAs then had the added joy of crafting bids that factored in the additional expenses associated with providing CPAP to Medicare beneficiaries, all the while knowing that CMS will only look at manufacturer's invoices as an indicator of cost.

But, in recent weeks, as I've talked to CPAP providers, it sounds like they are hanging in there and, in many cases, enjoying patient compliance rates of 90% or more. Still I have a feeling that as the 2010 progresses, issues will continue to challenge and vex providers.

Stay tuned for 2010 and Happy New Year!

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I grew up in Maine, a gun-friendly state if there ever was one. I don't understand the desire to own a gun but ... whatever.


Stupid people shouldn't be allowed to own guns (or have driver's licenses for that matter) which brings me to my point. Owing a gun, driving a car, having children all bring with them a healthy amount of personal responsibility, a notion I frequently trumpet in this space.

Police in Macon, Georgia recently cited a 55-year old diabetic man for unlawfully firing a gun after the ambulance he called when he suffered a low blood sugar didn't arrive fast enough.

Not many details were given, but I can't help but wonder why the guy didn't just drink some OJ. One does not need medical attention simply because they have a low blood sugar. If one has the cognitive ability to dial 911 (or pull the trigger) you'd think it'd be a no-brainer to help himself. By the time he should have needed an actual ambulance, he'd probably be unconscious.


Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This one's from the kind of interesting file. The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) and RxPatrol, which tracks pharmacy crimes, recently released a 10-minute training video for pharmacy staff.

Pharmacies, it appears, are subject to special pharmacy crimes. I have talked to one or two pharmacists in the past who have been robbed. Drugs exude an enticing pull after all. I suppose the "mom and pop" nature of many community pharmacies makes them seem like easy targets.

The 10-minute video outlines various scams as well as ways for pharmacies to protect themselves. To view the video or learn more about RxPatrol and its services visit

Pharmacists don't have a choice about Medicare taking their money, but they can sure as heck try to avoid letting others taking what doesn't belong to them.

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, December 22, 2009

They came clutching Medicare cards, fingers wrapped firmly around cane handles and rollator grips.

I haven't seen so much home medical equipment in one place since my last visit to Black Bear Medical.

This morning  a couple of hundred seniors—and me—descended on a local church for flu shots. What does this have to do with HME News, you ask?

This morning reminded me of just how much people depend on HME in order to stay mobile, active and healthy. I don't think most people really "see" it when they are out and about, but it serves as a good reminder of how important this stuff is. Without mobility equipment or portable oxygen, many of the folks I saw this morning would have missed out on flu shots. Some could have asked a family member take time out from work to escort them to the clinic; maybe others would have eventually received the vaccination through a more costly alternative, such as a visiting home nurse or trip to the doctor's office.

Just one more reason for HME providers to remind lawmakers and the general public why their services are so essential, not to mention, cost-effective.

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Friday, December 18, 2009

It's bitterly cold here today in our little corner of New England, although today's weather is an improvement over yesterday when temps could most optimistically be described as bone-chilling.

As I scurried from my car, I thought of all the seniors who were probably staying inside, safe from icy walkways and blowing winds. Many of them, the ones providers are most familiar with, are homebound for health reasons as well. They have limited mobility or may be on oxygen and find it too cumbersome to be out and about. Some may have no nearby family to check on them. Who do they see on a regular basis? Quite often, it's their delivery tech, RT or other home health care provider who provides the only visitor some folks see.

While it may not be a reimbursable service, it's nice to think that someone, in this case, Joe Provider, checks in on patients, especially during this cold, dark and, for many, lonely time of year.

Unfortunately, as many of the providers I've talked to lamented this week, reimbursement cuts are  making it harder than ever to provide the service seniors have come to expect. Most expect the problem to get worse.

It's just one more hole in the safety net for a lot of these folks and Congress would do well to remember their constituents as they bicker over health care reform.

Theresa Flaherty