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by: Elizabeth Deprey - Monday, February 4, 2013

Whew! My head has been full of products products products. We’re about to head into paste-up mode for the March issue, which means the HME News team has been racing toward the deadline. For me, that means putting together Medtrade Spring Products and Bariatric Product Spotlight entries for hours at a time. (The deadline was Friday so don’t go getting any ideas!)

With my head swimming with products and Medicare’s recent announcement, I was happy to see this cute little video.

Piglet Chris P. Bacon was born without the use of his back legs, so Dr. Len Lucero, a veterinarian at Eastside Veterinary Hospital in Clermont, Fla. created a little piggy wheelchair for Chris out of K’nex. 

Now, I have to say that a baby pig might just be the cutest animal on the planet. It’s definitely in the top five. So watching a 5-minute video of this guy wheeling around and literally pigging out on baby formula = a good break from the craziness going on lately. 

I’m hoping he does well in his new home with his new wheels. Adult pigs can be very mean, and they have vicious bites that could break a brick, so I’m not sure how long he’ll remain a house pig. Still, he seems pretty happy these days.

And of course, all I can think is “Wonder what a 7-element order would look like for this guy?” 

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by: Elizabeth Deprey - Friday, January 25, 2013

It’s been a chilly week here at HME News World HQ, with temps in the low single digits dipping into the negative double digits. 

Last winter was my first back in southern Maine after living along the Canadian border, and it was warm and wonderful, with only about two snowstorms. 

Still, I’m very used to very cold winters. When I was living in Madawaska, I wasn’t thrilled when it was -40, but I really didn’t mind. To me, 25-degree days with three feet of snowfall were much, much worse. 

On severely cold days, we’d plug our cars in overnight, unplug and start the car 20 minutes before work, and go about our business like normal. “Hey,” I’d say. “At least it’s too cold to snow!”

In talking with mobility providers in the seven demonstration states, they seem to feel about the same way about the demo. Yes, going through the prior authorization process adds a few extra steps—and they’re not thrilled there’s no set template—but hey, at least they’re not giving out equipment they’re not sure they’ll be paid for. 

In fact, despite some complaints about CMS contactors denying prior auths when they shouldn’t, providers seem pretty happy to take that extra step for that extra security. 

I’ll continue to be in touch the demo goes on; let me know if that feeling changes, or if things continue to get better. I’m interested to see how this all shakes out over the next few years. Will CMS expand it to the rest of the 50 states? Will they do this for any other products?

I know Liz wrote about DME MACs doing prepay reviews on products other than power wheelchairs—is that gearing up to maybe implement something like this in other sectors? 

If so, I get the impression that may not be such a bad thing.

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by: Elizabeth Deprey - Friday, January 18, 2013

Want to know how to make friends and influence people? Or at least get them to interact with you on social media?

How about giving them free stuff? 

That’s certainly worked for U.S. Medical Supplies. Check out our February issue to read about their $5,000 scholarship. Part of applying for the scholarship was to follow the provider on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. 

Well, a quick jaunt over to U.S. Medical’s Facebook page shows dozens of young people who plan to join the medical industry posting comments, asking questions and interacting with each other. These are future referral sources, either through their future work or through family member recommendations. 

The scholarship has earned U.S. Medical Supplies more than 15,650 Facebook fans. 

But shelling out five grand isn’t your only option to build up your online presence. 

Facebook powerhouse Alpine Home Medical recently held a lift chair contest. 

Howard’s Medical Supply gave out free tubing blankets for “liking” the provider’s Facebook page. 

With competitive bidding breathing down the industry’s neck, extensive audit recoupments and reduced reimbursements from many payers, spending a bit more to help get those cash customers to “like” you might just be worth it. 

There’s nothing like brand loyalty, and companies in every line of business fight for it constantly. 

A lot of you guys tell me if you can work with a customer, your commitment to service will earn that loyalty and keep them coming back. Could collecting “likes” and building name recognition help you get them in the door in the first place?

Couldn’t hurt.

by: Elizabeth Deprey - Thursday, January 10, 2013

Since it's January, let's have a look at the top Mobility stories from the past year.

I guess it's no surprise that HME News readers again kept their eyes on The Scooter Store as the industry's biggest mobility provider experienced a year of flux. 

Five of the most-read mobility stories for 2012 followed the provider as it visibly dealt with the challenges facing the mobility industry, beginning with the departure of much of the provider’s management team early in the year and continuing through layoffs of 220 employees in September.

March also saw founder and founder and CEO Doug Harrison’s resignation. The industry speculated that the shakeups at The Scooter Store couldn’t mean good things for the rest of the mobility world, a feeling that proved true when HME News compared utilization numbers for K0823 and saw the hard facts behind the mobility industry’s recent struggles.

Who knows what 2013 will bring for the provider? So far, they've gotten some bad press stemming from senatorial questioning and they've settled a lawsuit.

The remaining five most-read stories revolved around industry-changing issues like news that wheelchairs are breaking down with more frequency, the beginning of the seven-state power mobility device demonstration projectsenatorial scrutiny of the power mobility device error rate and a rule calling for providers to offer free replacement power wheelchairs if they don’t last five years

Vendors also had their eyes on the mobility market, offering new wheelchairs designed to produce cash sales—a move manufacturers hope will lead to better things in 2013.

 

Here's the list in order:

 

1) Scooter Store: 'Whatever is going on is not good for our industry' 

 

2) Five-year rule haunts mobility providers

 

3) As utilization goes, so goes The Scooter Store 

 

4) Senators: PMD error rate 'beyond belief' 

 

5) Setbacks at The Scooter Store

 

6) More cuts at The Scooter Store 

 

7) Vendors target mobility for cash sales

 

8) Scooter Store CEO resigns

 

9) PMD demo: Ask and you shall receive

 

10) Researchers call for re-evaluating wheelchair policies

 

 

by: Elizabeth Deprey - Thursday, January 3, 2013

I seem to be sandwiched between the two versions of 90210. It was the kid-generation before mine that watched the show’s first run in the ‘90s. To put this in perspective, at the time, I was watching Hey Arnold and Clarissa Explains It All – definitely more PG than PG-13. 

The CW Network, which features a lot of shows for the teen audience, rebooted 90210 in 2008, and by then I’d pretty much switched over to shows like The Office and How I Met Your Mother. The 90210 reboot hit the kid-generation after me. 

So it’s thanks to a ROHO blog that I know 90210 recently added a wheelchair-using character. And, like on Glee, this character is played by an actor who doesn’t use a wheelchair when he’s not on set. 

Apparently, whoever created this actor’s wheelchair did not put a lot of thought or research into that wheelchair’s accuracy—blogger Bob Vogel says:

“He is styling around in a properly fitted cool-looking wheelchair; except he is still using anti-tips! Seeing Smith try and play Riley as an active “in your face” heartthrob, wheeling around with anti-tips makes as much sense as an actor portraying an outlaw biker roaring around on a Harley with training wheels. He becomes more of a caricature than a character.”

Oops. 

Another key issue here is the cheap foam cushion in the character’s wheelchair, and the lack of a cushion in other scenes. You and I know this could lead to extremely dangerous pressure sores, but apparently the CW doesn’t. 

In the end, are we expecting too much from the CW? Should they have called in a PT/OT to fit this actor with a proper wheelchair and teach the actor how a real paraplegic would use it? Maybe. 

However, the ROHO blogger brings up another point that I think is even more important. 

“Forrest says he knows of at least five Screen Actors Guild actors that are paraplegics in the Los Angeles area that fit the bill for Riley’s character.”

Are we expecting too much here? Should they have hired a wheelchair user to play a wheelchair user? This time, I’d say that is not expecting too much. 

I guess we’ll see how our expectations pan out when they reboot 90210 again 20 years from now. 

 

by: Elizabeth Deprey - Thursday, December 20, 2012

I don’t know how many of you were able to tune in to yesterday’s Electronic Clinical Template Open Door Forum, but here's my take: I’d have to say it was kind of a mixed bag. 

First, Melanie Combs-Dyer gave a brief history of why CMS is looking into creating a template and what has been done so far. Not necessarily a bad idea, since the template has been off the radar since…hm…Looks like the last ODF I can find in my datebook was July 10. We were supposed to have one in November, but it was inexplicably cancelled. 

And what’s the big update?  “We’re in a little bit of a holding pattern.”

Yep, CMS is still working to get together with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to start nailing down how we’re going to get those template questions into the electronic health record. Pretty much where we were… in July. 

It’s true that CMS has updated its draft template since July. The newest version is dated 11/2/2012.

But for now, we’re still waiting to really move forward. Apparently, certain stakeholders will—at some point—get an email invitation to take part in weekly/biweekly phone calls to hash out details as we get closer to the IT/technical aspect of getting this template off the ground. 

While we may not have gotten an earth-shattering update, I don’t think the call was a waste of time. Listeners obviously had a lot of questions, filling almost the whole call with concerns and issues (some old, some new). There were still people in the queue waiting to ask questions when the call ended.

One caller question that really hit home for me: Is there going to be some sort of beta testing for this template before we invest a bunch of time running ahead with something that may have issues? 

Combs-Dyer says doctors are welcome to print out the template, use it and provide feedback, but I’d like to see a real, concentrated pilot. 

Don Clayback and I were talking about the ODF this morning, and he mentioned something that’s a real concern with this template: “As we get further down the road, it’ll be harder to change it.”

One thing I was glad to hear: Combs-Dyer said she’d include prompts in the template to remind physicians they can bring in a PT/OT to help evaluating the patient. I can’t imagine how doctors who only need to evaluate a few potential wheelchair users each year get through this process without a PT/OT, to be honest. 

The end of the call was a discussion that I expect to continue for a while: should the template be CMS-only, or universal. I know the Clinician Task Force is worried if we focus on what CMS is looking for, doctors won’t document what other payers accept, like a patient needed a PMD outside the home. Current practice has physicians documenting all of a person’s mobility needs, but if doctors follow the template, that complete evaluation might disappear. 

I’m not sure how complex it would be to make a template that meets all—or most—payers’ needs. Combs-Dyer says other payers can use the CMS template as a base and alter it to make their own templates. Doctors could then choose the template that coincides with the patient’s coverage. But what incentive do these other payers have to create their own templates? As far as I’ve heard, they’re not having the documentation difficulties CMS is having. 

We’ll have to keep an eye on how that one shakes out. They’re supposed to address the issue in the next ODF—no word yet on when that will be.

 

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by: Elizabeth Deprey - Wednesday, December 12, 2012

If this isn’t the coolest thing ever, it’s pretty close. 

I’m sure most of you have used Google Earth – an aspect of the Google website that will give you 360-degree street views of any address on the planet. It’s really cool to go see my own house, for some reason – it’s not like I haven’t seen it before, but it’s like being in a low-flying plane and looking for landmarks: “I can see my house from here!”

One of the best aspects of Google Earth is getting a street view while figuring out directions to a new place… if you’re a landmark person like me, “near the high school” will be much more helpful getting someplace than “West Hill Road.” 

Well our friends at All Star Medical in Hermitage, Tenn. have taken that one step further: they’re giving you 360 views of inside their location. You can walk from one end of the provider’s location to the other, zoom in on products and spin in a circle to see everything that’s around you. 

In a not unrelated note, those lift chairs look insanely comfy and I now want one. (I've heard since writing this blog that those are Golden chairs and have reserved a test drive at the next Medtrade!) The photo quality is so good you feel like you could reach out and touch the fabric. How cool is this? 

Of course, I wouldn't want to do this with my own home, but to showcase a business this way? What an awesome idea. 

If you’d like to check it out for yourself, click here

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by: Elizabeth Deprey - Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Before I went to CELA this spring, I hadn’t met anyone who used a wheelchair. I mean, sometimes when family members took my grandmother to a mall or Disney World, they’d grab a wheelchair to help her get around because of her sore knees, but that’s about it. 

Before I left for DC, I did some googling to find out how to avoid any rudeness on my part when I met the consumers there. (Do you crouch down to talk to people in wheelchairs? Do you just pretend they aren’t using one?)

Luckily, United Spinal has published a disability etiquette book online that offers a lot of tips—some of which I could have realized on my own (don’t use someone’s wheelchair to hold coats) and some that were new to me (If you offer a seat to a person who has limited mobility, keep in mind that chairs with arms or with higher seats are easier for some people to use.)

And, of course, the particular answer I was looking for: “When talking to a person using a wheelchair, grab your own chair and sit at her level. If that’s not possible, stand at a slight distance, so that she isn’t straining her neck to make eye contact with you.”

But even without United Spinal’s much-appreciated help, I could have guessed that it’s rude to stare at someone in a wheelchair. Especially considering it’s rude to stare at people, period. 

Apparently, my mom was one of the only people to teach their kids that, since Shannon Devido says people stare at her all the time

She’s a wheelchair user and an aspiring comedian who’s working on a new web series, “Stare at Shannon.” 

"Being a wheelchair user my whole life, I have become very accustomed to the fact that I get stared at a lot when I'm out," she told Mashable

"I don't really think about it any more - I just pretend it's because people are jealous. I figured out at a young age that walking is totally overrated. But really, if I'm going to be stared at anyway, why not be doing something awesome?"

Her first video is of trying to order fast food at the drive-thru. She’s also talking about taking a pole-dancing class or trying roller derby… should be something to see. 

 

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by: Elizabeth Deprey - Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I'm sure a lot of you have seen this guy before. Just in case: He's the Quantum Rehab spokesman—since May 2007—and he wrote the book "No Turning Back." 

He's an Iraq War veteran whose Humvee hit a roadside bomb in 2005, costing him his right leg at the hip, his left leg six inches below the hip and his left arm below the elbow.

When he's not touting the benefits of the equipment Quantum has to offer, he's the star of a TV show, "Reporting for Service with Bryan Anderson," which examines the works of community-service organizations and volunteers in the greater Chicago area. 

Haley Taffera, public relations coordinator for Pride Mobility, emailed me today to let me know that not only is Bryan speaking for Quantum around the country and starring in a TV show, he's now a regional Emmy winner. 

"'Reporting For Service with Bryan Anderson' won a 2011-2012 Chicago/Midwest Chapter Emmy Award in the Outstanding Achievement for Human Interest Programming category. David Price, producer, and Brian Musburger and David Berg, executive producers, also share this prestigious award with Bryan," wrote Haley. 

Now you guys all know that I love to hear when wheelchair users do amazing things—like take their wheelchairs underwater, play rugby, and participate in dance competitions. Follow me on Twitter if you'd like to keep up with these cool stories when I find them. 

So now we have another great story to tell, about a soldier who moved past a terrible disaster to build a life for himself and a TV show that highlights the great things other people in his area are doing. 

Sounds like he likes the same kinds of stories I do. 

Watch Bryan's show here.

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by: Elizabeth Deprey - Friday, November 16, 2012

Every year since college, I've had a Thanksgiving tradition of posting to Facebook every day in November. The post always starts: Today, I'm thankful for. 

I started this because it's so easy to get caught up in daily disasters like sore muscles, $250 car repair bills and the madness of holiday shopping that you lose sight of the good stuff. 

Each year, some of my other Facebook friends do it too, and last Monday one posted: Today I'm thankful for my job—even though it's Monday. 

With the country's unemployment rate—let alone the people who are working but don't have insurance—having a job is definitely something to be grateful for. Even if that means pulling yourself out of bed on Monday after getting used to sleeping in for two days. 

Just as this was on my mind, I read through this press release from RESNA

They've won a grant of almost a million dollars to create a national center that will promote jobs for people with disabilities. Their Accessible Technology Action Center will focus on the technology needed to make information and communication accessible so people with disabilities can get out into the workforce and succeed. 

Between this and the services HME providers offer, hopefully a lot of barriers will come down for people who would also be thankful to have a job—even on a Monday. 

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