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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

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

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

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

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

by: Theresa Flaherty - Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It appears sleep disorders are not just the bane of the middle aged. Kids are getting in on the act, too, although a new study says pediatricians may be under-diagnosing the problem.

The study obtained data on 154,957 patients from 32 primary care pediatric practices affiliated with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Results show that less than four % (5,750 children) were diagnosed with a sleep disorder. Of those number, 1.04% were diagnosed with sleep disordered breathing.

CPAP manufacturer Sleepnet is among the few that are waking up to this and developing masks more suitable for children.

Bottom line for providers: Encourage referral sources to discuss such symptoms as snoring, repeated wakefulness and mood changes in children to determine if they might just have a problem.

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dorothy, age unknown, has type 2 diabetes and no health insurance. She works in retail so she's not rolling in it. Yesterday, she called into CSPAN's Washington Journal and told former Rep. Tom Price that she's willing to pay for coverage if only some one would sell it to her.

Price's stellar advice: "If you watch your weight, if you exercise, watch what you eat and, you know, continue I guess in this case to take your medication. I don’t know any reason why you shouldn’t be able to find something out there, but you want to look for an employer that has a health care plan. Good luck."

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Monday, June 22, 2009

Today marked the start of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Congress 2009. That means that Capitol Hill is about to be overrun with 150 kids with Type 1 diabetes attempting to put a face on Type 1 diabetes for lawmakers, through visits and in testifying before Congress. Funding for the JDRF is projected to take a 35% hit this year.

After trailing along with HME providers from North Carolina last month during the AAHomecare fly-in I am impressed that these kids and their parents are taking time to do this. Pounding those marble halls is an exhaustive day-long process that too few people are willing to undertake.

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Wednesday, June 17, 2009

As we head into summer, the country's lawmakers wrangle over healthcare reform, with all the pork and pomp that any eventual reform package will entail.

Meanwhile, there's "reform" activity at the grassroots level. Take this posting from craigslist yesterday:

"We buy test strips and get them to people who need them (the uninsured). Most brands are needed. We can pay $5.00 for boxes of 50 and $10.00 for boxes of 100 strips."

It's a worthwhile and lofty goal, although I can't imagine who'll have boxes of strips lying around. They are like gold to most folks with diabetes. I hope they are able to  help people, but in the meantime, I continue to wonder when the price of the strips will come down. After all, test strips have been around for a few decades now, and while I am sure the technology has improved, it seems the price needs to drop,  you know, like it has with DVDs, cell phones, etc. Or, are the manufacturers just keeping the prices inflated because they have a captive audience?

Theresa Flaherty