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by: Elizabeth Deprey - Friday, November 8, 2013

One of HME News’s favorite social media buddies, provider Chris Rice, recently posted some old photos of the HME News website… It got me thinking about how much the Internet has changed in our lifetimes.

It’s hard to believe that there are whole generations out there who’ve never had to live with dial-up Internet. 

My dad is a computer guy, so we were one of the early families to get a computer, sometime around 1994, I think. I honestly don’t remember what we did with it… there were probably games…and, of course, word processing before printing on those long reams of paper connected by perforated, tear-away edging. I remember those giant floppy discs… I wonder how many of those would hold what my iPhone holds now?

The computer I do remember using was around my middle school years…watching educational videos on the Encarta Encyclopedia CD, saving homework files on smaller floppy discs and playing some game where you were in a human body as a white blood cell, zapping germs. 

Even as far back as that, there was the Internet. You’d click connect, and no one could call your house while you hogged the phone line for hours. After a series of static sounds, beeps and boings, AOL would launch. It was all about email and AOL Instant Messenger. Websites then basically featured one large graphic, followed by lots of text. I mostly used those old websites for homework research and to look up song lyrics, from what I remember. The only moving images to be found were animated GIFs…something so advanced then, and so simple now that elementary school students make them. 

Of course, with the Internet so advanced and so prevalent now, the question has to be: Why do so many HME providers still not have websites? Leave comments if you have any answers.

by: Elizabeth Deprey - Friday, November 1, 2013

 

I can’t help myself—I’m a sucker for kids and pets. Luckily, providers seem to have the same downfall: 101 Mobility and Miller’s both made sure Halloween 2013 was stellar for local kids.

The trick for 101 Mobility: How to top last year’s Halloween

With just days to plan, 101 Mobility’s Wilmington, N.C. location helped students at Codington Elementary with costumes in time for Halloween 2012—and they were a big hit. With a year to plan for Halloween 2013, they were sure they could top last year’s success.

The idea came about when Joseph Gray, product training supervisor, and Joel Brenner, vice president of franchise operations and marketing, spotted Darth Vader and ice cream truck wheelchair costumes online. 

“I saw the little boy and ice cream truck, and I was so touched,” said Gray. “A majority of our clientele is elderly, but we like doing things for children, too.” 

This year, they went all out to create a pirate ship, a Batmobile, a bulldozer, an oceanic backdrop for a mermaid and a flower pot to turn the students’ wheelchairs and strollers into props for their Halloween costumes. One student who does not need mobility equipment got a cowgirl costume and hobbyhorse. The students then took part in a Halloween parade down the hallways, showing off their costumes.

“For a brief moment, I could see in the other students’ faces, ‘I wish that was me in that costume,’” said Gray. “These kids won our hearts over completely.”

101 Mobility donated and built the costumes—but it was up to the kids and their families to choose what they wanted to be. 

“The teacher showed a collage of photos, and was able to see which images they could not stop looking at, what had them smiling,” said Monique Williams, content supervisor at 101 Mobility. “They were obviously very excited.”

Check out a video of the parade here.

Miller’s treats local shelter to party

101 Mobility is not the only one who got in the spirit of things. The employees at Akron, Ohio-based Miller’s continued it’s spooky Halloween tradition for the fourth year, throwing a Halloween party for the children at the local Access shelter, including costumes, candy and games.

“We set up trick-or-treat stations in the hallways and put up a piñata,” said Peggy Reno, director of compliance at Miller’s. “The kids really appreciate it.”

More than 20 Millers employees attended, throwing the party for 50 children. 

Reno provided face painting—with footballs and hearts topping the children’s wish lists, as well as ghosts, pumpkins and spiders.

Through special fundraisers like cake walks and spaghetti suppers, as well as paying for dress-down days, Miller’s employees throw the Halloween party and sponsor families at Christmas. 

Why contribute so much time and effort?

“We believe in giving back to the community,” said Reno. 

 

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by: Elizabeth Deprey - Thursday, October 24, 2013

Weesie Walker took over the reins at NRRTS when Simon Margolis retired Aug. 30. At the time, Michelle Gunn, NRRTS president, said “I can think of no one better than Weesie Walker to help us continue our mission.”

A little over a month in, Walker says the position fits like an old shoe.

“It’s almost like I never left,” she said. “It’s invigorating to jump back in and be part of things during this exciting time.”

Walker retired from National Seating and Mobility last December after 20 years as a prominent advocate for complex rehab. Her retirement opened up her time and her past experience provided the expertise to act as NRRTS interim director, she said.

“It was fate,” she said. “When I talked to registrants at Medtrade about how much NRRTS means to them, I knew I’d made the right decision.”

Her main areas of focus so far have been planning the spring’s National CRT conference and NRRTS’s educational webinar series.

NRRTS will host 30 free webinars next year, coordinated by Walker and well-known speaker and educator Michelle Lange. 

“There’s a huge need for it,” said Walker. “For new people, there’s an introduction to the world of complex rehab. For more experienced people, it’s always a challenge to offer something that’s not the same stuff they’ve heard before.”

Efforts around the second annual National CRT Conference include working with NCART to set a date and plan programming, as well as finding consumers to sponsor for trips to D.C. to help advocate on the Hill.  

“They’re the ones that really tell the story,” she said. 

While Walker is the interim executive director, she’s not planning to resume retirement anytime soon, she said. 

“I want to make sure things are running as smoothly as possible, then we’ll start the search,” she said. 

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by: Elizabeth Deprey - Thursday, October 17, 2013

America’s back in business. The Washington Post has some pretty boiled-down coverage of the results of the shutdown.

Here in Maine, something in the forefront of my mind is that Acadia National Park had to shut down during the week or so where the fall leaves are the most beautiful.

No matter the political party, I think the consensus is that the shutdown was a fiasco.

But here we are, on the other side. Now what?

Hopefully, Congress will get in gear and get some work done. The industry has quite a few initiatives they hope to push on the Hill:

• Theresa wrote about an O&P bill allowing only licensed providers to provide orthotics and prosthetics.

• Stakeholders are hoping to change part of the Affordable Care Act to allow nurse practitioners to sign off on the face-to-face paperwork and order equipment.

• Don Clayback told me at Medtrade that the bill to create a separate benefit for complex rehab needs a CBO score and more cosponsors ASAP to be able to pass this December.

• And, of course, there’s the bill to replace competitive bidding with the Market Pricing Program. With thousands of complaints pouring in to the People for Quality Care hotline, with more likely to come now that it’s time for a lot of folks to reorder diabetes supplies, I’m sure H.R. 1717 is at the top of many providers’ lists.

So good luck on the Hill, stakeholders. There’s a lot of work to do, but after this shutdown kerfuffle, I say they owe America a few favors.

by: Elizabeth Deprey - Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The kitchen table is a pretty integral prop for most families. It’s where you go to hear good news and bad news, have holiday gatherings, pay bills, do homework… that one piece of furniture is home to a lot of the business of running a family. 

MESA turned a lot of heads when Executive Director Liz Moran decided to take that prop and use it for her fall conference, set for Sept. 17-20.

When I first tweeted the event’s addition to the HME News Events Calendar in July, I actually got a couple of replies—that hasn’t happened for a calendar event before or since.

“I like what they have to say here,” said one of my followers. 

Basically, the event promised to tackle ongoing issues in new ways, on top of new topics, in a new “kitchen table” style format.

Moran got in touch with me this week to let me know how it all went.

Attendees visited experts for eight 50-minute sessions, coming around to join them at their “kitchen table” and engage in discussions.

“The experts sat and talked with attendees,” she said, instead of the classroom-style format MESA used in the past. 

The verdict: “Let’s do all our conferences this way from now on,” one attendee wrote on their speaker evaluation form. 

The speakers liked it too: “There was more interaction and idea exchange,” one said. “They shared a lot of information and good ideas.”

Way to go, MESA, for trying something new and for knocking it out of the park. 

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by: Elizabeth Deprey - Monday, September 23, 2013

I’m not sure if other states use the term “from away.” Basically, like it sounds, the term refers to people who aren’t from Maine. (Side note: to be from Maine, your family needs to have been here for at least a half-dozen generations. Even then, you’re a little iffy. And your summerhouse on the coast doesn’t count. It actually counts against you.)

My hometown paper, the Kennebec Journal, posted a column online today in its “View From Away” section: “Scooter Store saga a warning to Medicare cheats.”

I was kind of excited to see what my central Maine kindred had to say about this news “from away.” A fresh perspective!

Alas, it is a reprint from our old friends, The San Antonio Express News. 

Still, it offers a succinct view and opinion of the goings-on at The Scooter Store this year, including its eventual closure in the coming weeks. 

Of course, everyone and their mother has seen a Scooter Store ad (or two) and so this story is relevant to the KJ’s readers. I would say that the story has even more implications for Maine than that, though: 

#1: We’re one of the grayest states in the nation. A lot of our citizens rely on HME and rely on Medicare to pay for it. 

#2: Mainers know what it means to lose an employer like The Scooter Store. 

Maine is full of rivers, streams and trees, making it an ideal location for an industrial-age mill or factory. Toothpicks, shoes, textiles, grain, boards, paper…like a lot of East Coast states, our water powered the creation and transportation of a lot of goods. Unlike a lot of our East Coast neighbors, Maine doesn’t have a whole lot else going for it than natural resources. All the people that converged on the mill towns of Maine during the boom are now struggling as manufacturing goes overseas. 

Whole towns in our state still run on the last, gasping breaths of paper mills. Others have died without them.

We know what’s it’s like to go from 2,400+ employees to zero, New Braunfels, and we feel your pain. Best of luck to you.

by: Elizabeth Deprey - Friday, September 13, 2013

Earlier this week, Gerry Dickerson pointed out this Guinness commercial, featuring a wheelchair basketball game. 

I have to admit, I don’t really like commercials in general. My brother bought me this little black box to hook up to my TV that will let you watch Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon.com on your TV, and between that and YouTube, I get my TV fix without seeing too many commercials. If I hear there’s a cute commercial where a guy proposes to his girlfriend via kitten, I go watch it on YouTube. 

So that’s where I went to check out this Guinness commercial—and so did almost 6 million other people. 

It’s a pretty fast-paced commercial following a game of wheelchair basketball between two teams—and these guys play to win. 

I won’t spoil it for you like I did with the cat food commercial—go see for yourself why so many people are sharing and responding to this video. 

For me, it brought to mind a talk by United Spinal CEO Paul Tobin at CELA a couple of years ago—the shifting public perceptions of mobility users. He talked about FDR refusing to be photographed in a wheelchair because of fears about public opinion. That was the 1930s and 1940s—not really that long ago, in the grand scheme of things. 

Now we have record attendance at London’s Paralympic games and a wheelchair basketball video garnering nearly 6 million views. 

Pretty cool. 

by: Elizabeth Deprey - Thursday, September 5, 2013

Kickstarter has helped everyday people invest in projects by (mostly) other everyday people since 2009. This could be anything: a documentary, a new invention, a game… rather famously, in March this year, Veronica Mars TV show producer Rob Thomas raised more than $5 million to make a Veronica Mars movie. 

Anyone can post any project they’re hoping to “kickstart.” Anyone can donate any amount of money—they receive thank-you presents like a personal note of thanks, custom T-shirts, dinner with an author, or initial production run of a new product.

Hasco Medical has taken this internet phenomenon in a new direction—they’re seeking donations in exchange for thank-you notes and videos to help wheelchair users make a down payment on an accessible vehicle. 

Wedeliverfreedom.com is raising money right now for a little girl named Hannah. She needs $7,500 for a down payment on a wheelchair van. She has nine days left and has $1,390 so far. 

Her father is away, serving in the army, and her mother is having a hard time transporting her in a regular vehicle. 

I have to admit, I’m a little biased toward this little girl. Here’s hoping she gets the support she needs in the last week or so of her crowdfunding effort. 

 

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by: Elizabeth Deprey - Wednesday, August 28, 2013

You probably know Doug Westerdahl of Rochester, N.Y.-based Monroe Wheelchair. He’s extremely active in the complex rehab community and is a very sharp businessman. When I talk to him about the PMD demo, he’s got all these statistics and math and information—good stuff to have when you’re trying to run a company (or write a story.) 

Since, as of Sept. 1, providers in the seven demo states will have been submitting prior authorizations for power mobility for one year, I reached out to Doug last week to ask how the demo was going for him. His answer: It’s not.

“We did not win any competitive bidding contracts,” he told me. “All of the PMDs that need prior authorization are in competitive bidding.”

Luckily for the patients, all of Monroe’s hard work getting documentation together to get a green light on their PMD follows the patient, so they won’t have to wait for another provider to go through all the steps. Unfortunately, that also means Westerdahl did all that work for nothing. It also means I’m out of a great demo source. (No worries, though: Those Medicare clients were only 3.9% of Monroe’s business, so Doug will still be around for me to harass on other topics in the future.)

Still, Doug did bring up an excellent point: A lot of providers (and CMS contractors) struggled in the beginning of the demo, just getting used to the new system. 

Since Round 2 began July 1, providers who’ve never done power mobility before are now contract suppliers for PMDs, and some of those people are supplying in the demo states. Doug's question: Wonder how they’re doing with the demo?

I wrote to my source at CMS, and, the official had this to say:

Me: Are there new players in the PMD demo, now that Round 2 of competitive bidding is underway? How are those HME providers doing, compared to those who've taken part over the past year?

CMS: No changes were made to the demonstration as a result of competitive bidding Round 2.

Hm… I'm still wondering what throwing in a new test group and booting a bunch of providers will mean for CMS's demo experiment results. I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open about this. Let me know if you hear anything. 

 

 

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by: Elizabeth Deprey - Friday, August 16, 2013

Are you ready for National CRT Week?

As of Aug. 19, the complex rehab community should be speaking to their representatives at their hometown offices, state fairs, town hall meetings, grocery store aisles—whatever it takes to get the word out about the complex rehab separate benefit bills. 

I just got off the phone with Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs at Pride Mobility Products. He has big plans for congressional visits next week, and he’s bringing Exhibit A: The equipment itself. 

“We want to show them what complex rehab is, let them see and touch and sit in the products,” he told me. 

Johnson will bring an ATP to the meetings with lawmakers, and the pair will explain the difference between complex rehab and traditional HME—and let lawmakers try out the equipment. 

“Will they get to try a sip-n-puff?” I asked Seth. 

“Well, maybe a head array,” he said. 

Apparently, to work correctly, the sip-n-puff apparatus is a lot of work to properly fit to the person using it…you know, because it’s complex rehab. Oops. 

Still, Seth says showcasing the different complex rehab equipment—like the sip-n-puff—is key to establishing the need for a separate benefit. That was a main goal of the briefing last month, and stakeholders there were successful enough to bump cosponsors of H.R. 942 to 65. 

The goal this week: Add more representatives to that number, and bring senators on board to S. 948, which currently has three cosponsors. 

Want to follow Seth’s example? Have your lawmaker out to your location and give them a hands-on demonstration of CRT equipment—or bring a consumer with you to chat up your lawmaker. Make sure to let NCART know what you’re up to this week, and feel free to comment below or tweet at me to let me know too! 

 

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