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by: Theresa Flaherty - Thursday, July 30, 2009

Remind yourself of this the next time you stop at McDonalds with a hankering for a Big Mac, fries and a large soft drink:

The proportion of obese Americans increased by 37% in the eight years leading up to 2006, prompting a $40 billion a year rise in healthcare costs, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC study, published this week,  estimates that obesity costs the country $140 billion a year in extra medical costs. Obese people spend on average $1,500 a year more for medical care than a person of healthy weight.

Most of the increased healthcare costs result from the cost of prescription medication for obesity-related conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

This is a terrible problem that will take its toll on U.S. society for years to come. If you’re a provider who supplies bariatric equipment and services, you owe it to yourself, your patients and your referral sources to learn as much about obesity as possible. By becoming a valuable and supportive resource, you'll be doing your country a great service.

For some interesting insights on the obesity epidemic, check out this NPR interview with Dr. David Kessler, the former head of the FDA.

— Mike Moran

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by: Theresa Flaherty - Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Efforts to exempt community pharmacies from the fast-approaching accreditation and surety bond requirements gained momentum this week when three groups offered their support. The National Federation of Independent Business, the National Rural Health Association and the American Association of Diabetes Educators have all sent letters to the appropriate Senate and House committees, encouraging their members to support bills that would exempt pharmacies from the Sept. 30 accreditation requirement and the Oct. 1 surety bond requirement. Industry stakeholders worry that the requirements will force some pharmacies to stop selling HME, affecting access, especially for beneficiaries in more rural areas. A draft healthcare reform bill in the House proposes exempting pharmacies that sell diabetes supplies, canes and crutches from the accreditation requirement.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Theresa Flaherty - Monday, July 27, 2009

So a provider contacted HME News today, hunting around for CPAP utilization data. He believes the CPAP compliance requirements that went into effect in November 2008 have eliminated 30% of his patient roster. Here's what we have for the number of allowed beneficiaries for CPAP from April 2008 to March 2009, the most recent month for which we have data, for the four jurisdictions combined:

April 2008:   217,967

May 2008:   181,078

June 2008:   194,518

July 2008:   197,073

August 2008:   190,075

September 2008:   190,143

October 2008:   197,293

November 2008:   187,162

December 2008:   199,779

January 2009:   186,380

February 2009:   178,229

March 2009:   190,237

That's a 13% decrease in the one-year period from April 2008 to March 2009. How's your CPAP biz?

Liz Beaulieu (Theresa's on vacation this week!)

by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Roche has launched a new program for docs and nurses to improve communication with diabetes patients.
"Creative Coaching" helps healthcare professionals with “the art of patient engagement,” said Luc Vierstraete, SVP and general manager of Roche's US diabetes unit, in a statement.
(Not sure what that statement means.)
Anyhoo, if doctors and nurses need training on diabetes communication, it seems logical that providers could maybe step up with a new business option here.
Theresa Flaherty

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by: Theresa Flaherty - Friday, July 17, 2009

Well, it appears that all the lobbying and bills and rallies (and possibly, HME News articles written by yours truly) have paid off for community pharmacists. In health care reform drafts released this week by the House, pharmacists would be exempt from surety bonds and accreditation requirements.

That's music to Bill Popomaronis' ears.

"We have believed all along that pharmacists already meet strict requirements designed to protect the beneficiary and limit fraud," said Popomaronis, vice president of long term and home health care pharmacy services for the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).

It's not a done deal, of course. But the association has worked hard to make itself heard, including launching a grassroots network and getting a couple of bills introduced. They are obviously doing something right.

Theresa Flaherty

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by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, July 14, 2009

We just shipped our August (!) issue off to the printer today. The issue features two separate stories on patient education for diabetes patients. One story is about a distributor, H.D. Smith that has developed a program that providers can customize to use with their own patients. This allows the provider to market themselves to referral services as offering more than just strips and meters.

The other is about a mail-order provider who is in the process of launching such a program. That provider, Mark Libratore, CEO of Liberator Medical, is very passionate about the diabetes market and its opportunities—both from a business perspective and also, the chance to help patients. He forwarded me some numbers from the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

Here's the one that should perk our readers up the most:

60% of people with diabetes should receive formal diabetes education. However, only about 1% of Medicare beneficiaries received self-management training in 2004 and 2005.

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The fine folks at Mercedes-Benz have developed a drowsy-driving technology called Attention Assist.

The company studied physiological signs of fatigued driving in more than 550 men and women to develop the systems, which includes a steerig angle sensor that recognizes patterns of minor steering corrections. Once a drowsy pattern is recognized, the system sounds the alarm (literally) as well as sends up an espresso cup icon in the instrument panel.

"While nothing replaces a good night's sleep, new automotive technologies
that make drivers aware of their lack of alertness can make a significant
difference in the number of tragic incidents that occur on American roads,"
stated Darrel Drobnich, chief program officer of the National Sleep
Foundation, in a press release.

Theresa Flaherty

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by: Theresa Flaherty - Monday, July 6, 2009

Up heah in Maine, we have a local community access TV personality, known as the Humble Farmer, who was recently diagnosed with sleep apnea.

So he obtained (I assume) a CPAP with mask and a chin strap (I say assume cause I missed the show and the mainstream media from which I was forwarded this tidbit did a woefully inaccurate job of reporting all the nitty-gritty CPAP details on which we thrive).

Anyhow, apparently the chin strap, described only as "stretchy," cost $220! Now, our humble farmer is not so humble that he doesn't have health insurance, so in that sense he was lucky.

The intrepid TV host investigated and found the same strap retailing online for $19.95. Now, I am not advocating for using Internet pricing as the reimbursement base of all things DME, but, I can't help but wonder what's going on here. Is there actually a CPAP strap that goes for $220? Is it mink-lined? Does it perform a little jowl-tightening therapy on the side? Did it belong to Michael Jackson? (sorry, but until now, we were the only media outlet in existence that hasn't been able to reference that story).

How about my readers? Do you sell these mysterious luxury chin straps? Inquiring minds want to know.

Theresa Flaherty

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by: Theresa Flaherty - Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Not a day passes that I don't come across dozens of CPAP and OSA news, everything from studies showing that type 2 diabetes patients likely to suffer from OSA (no, really?) to the latest products. Even lawmakers are getting on the bandwagon. The Oklahoma Senate recently approved the Oklahoma Sleep Diagnostic Testing Regulation Act, stating that there is a growing need for sleep diagnostic testing in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders.

I also spoke with a provider recently who offers home sleep studies and CPAP. While home testing hasn't proved yet to be the boon that many had anticipated when CMS approved the tests last year, this provider feels it will eventually become the standard model. Her growing company seems to back that up.

I can't name her here, but look for her success story in the August issue.

Theresa Flaherty

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by: Theresa Flaherty - Friday, June 26, 2009

Diabetes supplies, as you may have heard from the recent PAOC meeting, are off the table for the first round of bidding, although a national proposal to bid out the mail order market is expected to take shape in the next 2 to 3 years.

Bill Popomaronis, of the National Community Pharmacists Association, has been vocal in his displeasure at the committee's make-up, which has several large and mail order providers, but no small diabetes suppliers or independent pharmacists. He fears this could put them and patients at a disadvantage when the program rolls out. So, despite what  may seem like a breather for you, don't  sit back and do nothing. Like your harder-hit counterparts in oxygen and DME, keep up the pressure when tlking with lawmakers.

After all, test strips dropped to $19 a vial under Round1 in some areas and history has a strange way of repeating itself.

Theresa Flaherty

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