Summit re-cap: Service as HME’s new currency

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Friday, September 27, 2019

CLEVELAND – The buzzword at the HME News Business Summit last week was service: How providers must use it as a competitive advantage and how they must modernize their definition of it.

Healthcare economist J.B. Silvers set the stage during a “fireside chat” on Monday morning with Medical Service Company’s Josh Marx, saying providers need to a better job selling their service. It’s one thing to sell equipment and another to sell your ability to reduce re-admission rates, he told attendees.

“There needs to be a changing model to service, from equipment,” said Silvers, the John R. Mannix Mutual of Ohio professor of health care finance and professor of banking and finance at the Weatherhead School of Management, with a joint appointment in the University School of Medicine, at Case Western Reserve University. “That’s how you change the paradigm.”

About 140 attended the Summit, Sept. 22-24 at the Ritz-Carlton in Cleveland, to learn about and discuss trends in health care and HME, and to network.

A big reason providers need to emphasize their service: large new entrants in health care like Amazon, which already sells general medical supplies and equipment.

“Anything from a commodity perspective they can clearly do well,” Silvers said.

The P word: partnership

As an example of how service can be the differentiator for payers, Amber Casteel discussed a new program at BlueCare Tennessee that required providers to go through an RFP process to provide complex respiratory care to its members. The foundation of that RFP: What services do you provide? Casteel told attendees the program allowed the payer to narrow down the number of providers it works with because those that weren’t serious about service didn’t complete the RFP.

“We got a good response and we awarded a contract to everyone who responded,” said Casteel, director of clinical effectiveness. “And now we have their services in writing.”

Casteel says the program set the foundation for “a new partnership” with providers that includes quarterly meetings and data sharing.

21st century service

To modernize their service, providers need to meet their patients where they are: online and on their phones. Rob Boeye told attendees the uptake on Brightree’s Patient Hub consumer-facing app has been slow. About 250 provider customers are using the app, covering about 7,500 patients.

“Adoption has been a problem,” said Boeye, executive vice president, HME, for Brightree, which plans to take a step back and create a “starter kit” for the app to increase adoption.

Boeye says Brightree is also prioritizing developments in automation, integration and data analytics to help providers focus on what they do best: You guessed it, provide service.

Manufacturers of sleep therapy devices have arguably done the most to push the industry to modernize its services through cloud-connected CPAP devices and patient-facing apps that help track therapy. Those are tools that providers want to combine with human capital to develop personalized intervention plans, says Tim Murphy.

“It helps to answer, what’s the best way to engage patients,” said Murphy, business segment leader, New Business Solutions, Philips Sleep and Respiratory Care.

Hurry up, they're coming

Kevin Caliendo told attendees that CVS is developing an online marketplace for medical equipment with tens of thousands of SKUs. The idea is to have a concierge at the front of the store who can recommend equipment that customers can buy through the marketplace and have delivered to their homes.

“They have a team right now going out and procuring the best products for the marketplace,” said Caliendo, an equity research analyst with UBS, who follows CVS.

This is only the latest HME-related news from CVS, which already plans to have 1,500 HealthHUBs—which have an expanded HME offering that includes CPAP masks and accessories—operating by the end of 2021.

Despite Amazon and CVS increasing their stakes in health care, Caliendo told attendees he thinks health insurers are the biggest disruptors in health care right now, noting that they, largely, “control the money and how it’s spent.”