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by: Theresa Flaherty - Monday, November 16, 2020

TV shows have begun having their fall premieres and as I settled in recently to watch a few (Chicago PD, Grey’s Anatomy, Rise Up), I found myself transported more than once back to the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when so much was unknown and scary, and yet, seemed so temporary. When I bailed on my office March 18 with the speed of one abandoning a city falling to invading troops, I honestly thought I’d be back in a week or 10 days. I’m sure most of us did.

I think we all know how that turned out.

The aforementioned shows have both portrayed those early pandemic days in flashbacks and brought us forward to the unpleasant reality that we find ourselves in - a sort of masked limbo from which we cannot escape.

Lo these many months, I’ve adapted, donning my mask almost as automatically as grabbing my car keys. I don’t linger in stores, though I have finally eaten out on a few occasions. I make few plans, but I do make them. After all, life must return to some semblance of normal, however new that normal is.

Flipping through the pages of the December issue of HME News, I can see that much of our coverage reflects that new normal, as well. While we are no longer churning out stories about those early days of PPE shortages and ramped up ventilator production, the pandemic’s impact is felt in the reporting: in the quarterly earnings calls, in the announcement of virtual events, in the way people live and work.

I spoke with HME Woman of the Year Patty Mastandrea (page 1), who summed much of the dumpster fire that has been 2020, as we talked about leading in challenging times.

“Our world changed March 16,” as she so succinctly put it.

We also talked about balancing acts, something that most of us had to face like never before. We did it, we are still doing it and we will keep on doing it.

We have no choice.

But I’m optimistic, despite signs the coronavirus is coming back around for another hit. CMS seems to have hit bottom with the competitive bidding program, providers are finding new ways to do business and there’s a new president transitioning to power.

Here’s to a new year ahead and a new normal. Whatever that may be.

by: Theresa Flaherty - Wednesday, August 26, 2020

After weeks of receiving email notifications from LinkedIn, I learned the reason why when I logged onto the company Slack this week.

August 25 marked my 15-year anniversary with HME News, according to the impeccable records of the Capable Erika.

Fifteen years! I’m never sure whether to celebrate or commiserate when someone hits such a lengthy tenure.

That first week, I had no idea what I had done, what I was doing, what the heck was a rollator, and what the future held, either for me or this strange new industry I had stumbled into.

One of my first stories was about the impact of Hurricane Katrina on providers in the devastated areas. I’m still proud of that story.

Since then, I’ve covered all manner of disasters, from competitive bidding to audits to cuts in reimbursement. I’ve also covered a ton of natural disasters as part of our disaster beat, including wildfires, tornadoes and floods. This week, editor Liz already emailed me to remind me that California is again experiencing wildfires and parts of the Midwest are digging out from a derecho. (We may have to rethink the disaster beat if the weather continues to get weirder).

By far, though, the biggest disaster I’ve covered in my tenure is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has the distinction of being both a natural and a man-made disaster. The changes it has wrought will be longstanding.

As I write this, I am sitting at my mother’s kitchen table in Cape Cod. Fifteen years ago, the idea of working from home (or anywhere else) was not a thing at HME News!

Through all the news—good, bad and ugly—I am constantly meeting new people and learning new things about HME.

Thanks for reading!

by: Theresa Flaherty - Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Every month HME News sends out a newspoll to gauge provider opinion on timely issues affecting the HME industry. Some poll questions are better than others, but we always try to put thought into them.

It’s harder than you might think.

Every once in awhile, while scrolling through the responses readers are kind enough to submit, we’ll get a comment like this: “Another stupid question.”

The month’s stupid question was about providers’ take on the COVID-19 pandemic: What is the pandemic like in your area and how is it affecting your business? Do you think the pandemic will get worse as we head into the fall/winter?

Now, I’m not one who subscribes to the notion that there’s no such thing as a stupid–I worked retail. Trust me, there are stupid questions.

With all that’s going on with the pandemic—the polarization, the politicization, the general panic­–we were curious to see how providers, who serve among front line workers, were faring. They also believe, almost unanimously, that things will get worse before they get better.

Five months into this national disaster, HME providers have adapted as best they can. Depending on where they are located, providers are dealing with increased costs, equipment shortages and mask mandates. They have tightened belts, applied for Paycheck Protection loans to keep staff employed and adapted their business models to keep up with market demands.

And they do it while fearing for their own safety.

“I worry that one of our employees will bring it into the store and infect everyone else, causing us to have to shut down, but what can I do about it? I can't police everyone else's off-work time other than to stress how dangerous this all is to everyone,” wrote Ryan French.

Like Ryan, I have my own concerns about the virus. I’m in a higher risk category. I wear my mask when I go out. Like many people, I am irritated when I see others who don’t. But to maintain my sanity, I try to employ the same philosophy that I apply to life in general: assume no ill will.

After all, we’re all just doing the best we can. Even that provider in Pennsylvania who thinks we ask stupid questions.




by: Theresa Flaherty - Thursday, July 2, 2020

I couldn’t have timed it more perfectly if I were starring in a sitcom. Just ahead of our scheduled podcast recording on Wednesday afternoon, I tucked myself away in my quiet bedroom, phone, laptop with script, and headphones at hand.

Ahead of calling our special guest (in this case Apria’s Bill Guidetti), Liz and I always connect on the phone to make sure everything is copacetic.

And it was, until it wasn’t. At that very moment, my fire alarms went off. All of them.

“Ohmigodohmigodohmigod” may have been uttered by me a few times before, thankfully, the alarms shut off.

At which point, my computer with the podcast script I needed outlining my preplanned, insightful questions, froze up.

I could go on, but you get the gist. It’s all in a day’s work from home. We managed to pull it together in the end (we always do).

As we slog our way through month five of this dystopian experiment known as COVID-19, we all continue to make adjustments, in how we work, think and do things.

One big change has been the switch to virtual events. In the past few weeks, I have listened in on a few Heartland at Home sessions, and while I missed the hog roast and getting reacquainted with folks in person, the sessions were well done and well attended.

Our HME Business Summit, scheduled for Sept. 15-17, has also moved online. The programming has just been finalized and it looks top-notch, as always.

I was talking to Gary Sheehan, who has participated in numerous Summit panels over the years and he’s gung-ho about online events.

“This should be the best HME Summit ever,” he told me. “There’s the ability to attract really premier leaders that you’ve not been able to because of the need for travel and multiple days out of the office.”

That, dear readers, is music to our ears.



by: Theresa Flaherty - Monday, June 1, 2020

Today was a unicorn day.

What do I mean by that? In diabetes parlance, a unicorn is a blood sugar reading of 100. No scientific reasoning that I’m aware, it’s just a nice, round number, generating excitement not unlike that of aperfect score on a school test.

One thing I’ve learned over the past 11 weeks or so of working from home is that you can’t anticipate all the little technological snafus that never happened in the office.

Case in point: Although I like the little scanner that comes with the Freestyle Libre just fine, I had finally switched to using my iPhone instead (it seems to be an either/or proposition, you can't use both).

The biggest benefit: it regularly and automatically uploads to the doctor’s office—a big help during my very first telehealth appointment back in April. The nurse already had my graphs—no extra effort needed on my part.

Downfall: Working from home, I have to use my own phone to make work calls. While using the phone, I can’t scan my blood sugar if I suddenly feel a possible low coming on. The most recent time this happened, I managed to power through, but it’s not, shall we say, ideal.

Technology, as I am so often rudely reminded, does not always get a perfect score.

Technology was at the forefront of last week’s big announcement in which AdaptHealth announced it was acquiring Solara Medical Supplies. Solara is a big player these days in the CGM and insulin pump space.

Not only do company execs expect to see growth of 20% annually for the next few years, they are looking ahead to all the possibilities of connected care in the home.

As the current pandemic has shown, it’s coming. The question is, who will be ready to jump on it?

by: Theresa Flaherty - Monday, April 20, 2020

Appropriate to my current WFH status, I also had my first ever telehealth appointment last week, with Sarah the CDE. It was simply a three-month check-in to see how I was doing with diabetes management, including what patterns have been cropping up in my blood sugar numbers, and where I could make changes to fine-tune things.

On the plus side, I’ve been getting in more exercise because I force myself out for walks whenever the weather is agreeable (so, about half as often as I—or Sarah—would like). I am sticking to mostly my regular eating patterns and am happy to report working from home makes me less likely to stress snack mid-afternoon (see walks. See also, water plants or toss in a load of laundry).

On the minus side: Where are all these lows coming from?

Eh, it’s all a day in the life when it comes to diabetes.

Like so many around the world these days, I am all about flattening the curve to slow and ultimately stop the spread of COVID-19.

In the diabetes world, we have something a wee bit similar, called “time in range.” That’s the amount of time your sugars stay in range—a better indicator of control than the peaks and valleys of highs and lows. Even if you run a bit high or bit low, a steady, straight line means you’re on the right track.

At HME News we are on week five ( or is it six?) of working from home. I remain optimistic that we will see the pandemic curve flatten soon and I can get back into the office and the hum of a working newsroom (though I plan to WFH a bit more often).

I am also optimistic that my next check-in with Sarah will be face to face (there are limitations to telehealth) and that I'll have some curveless graphs for her to parse.

Stay safe, stay healthy and stay home!

by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, April 7, 2020

I had no sooner positioned my phone on the dining room table, speaker phone engaged and introduced myself to Dr. Sohail Masood of KabaFusion when the lawn guys showed up in all their noisy, machine-wielding glory.

I tried moving phone, laptop and Dr. Masood away from the racket—first to the living room couch, then, when that didn’t help, to the bedroom.

“I’m sorry, I can’t hear you!” I apologized, more than once. I then had to interrupt him again to pop in earbuds while frantically typing notes into my laptop (which I am not good at in the best of circumstances). All while nervously monitoring the rising buzzsaw of lawn equipment as the lawn guys kept moving around my first-floor abode.

Then. A hammering on the front door, which I ignored, and then hammering again. The phone, the laptop, the earbuds and Dr. Masood accompanied me to the front door because the UPS guy insisted in getting my last name, despite my wild gesticulations through the glass door which clearly announced: “I’M ON A CALL!”

Fortunately, Dr. Masood (and I) had a sense of humor about the whole thing. Working at home presents challenges in the best of circumstances and the circumstances we currently find ourselves in are far from the best.

I’m fortunate I can work from home and I’m interested to see how working from home works out for companies that have either been reluctant to allow it, or have never implemented it so quickly or on such a large scale.

One provider who saw the writing on the wall is Gary Sheehan of Cape Medical Supply, which quickly ramped up WFH for 90% of its workforce. Technology-wise, the company had many of the components, such as online meeting software and chat functions, already in place. Employees scooped up desktop machines and monitors and set up remotely.

One key to success: Flexibility and trust, especially during a crisis, said Sheehan.

“We’re not auditing keystrokes or monitoring call queues,” he said. “I understand people have lives and there’s a lot going on.”

A lot, indeed.

Anticipating that HME providers may implement more WFH when things return to “normal,” we’ve enlisted Acu-Serve’s John Stalnaker to write a batch of Smart Talk columns on the topic. Look for it starting with the June edition.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and stay home if you can!

by: Theresa Flaherty - Wednesday, April 1, 2020

My most important task as a reporter when it comes to any crisis happening in the world at large is talking to HME providers to find out what’s happening on the front lines. What are you seeing? What’s been the impact? What are you doing? What do you need everyone (especially policymakers) to know?

We do this fairly frequently (hurricanes. competitive bidding. locusts). In-house, we refer to it as the disaster beat. However, nothing could have prepared us for the disaster unfolding in real time. The coronavirus pandemic has been unlike anything else I’ve covered in nearly 15 years at HME News. Providers are well and truly in the thick of a healthcare disaster that changes daily and they (and we) are doing our best to keep up.

I’ve been lucky to talk to quite a few of you, in quick snatches of phone calls taken at my dining room table, shouting into a speaker phone and praying the noise from the kitchen isn't too loud.


PPE remains the No. 1 concern for most of the providers I talk to. Brad Heath laughed out loud when I asked him.

“We have some distilleries making sanitizer for us,” he said. “We have been able to get some gowns. We started using shower caps as shoe covers at one point. As far N95 masks, we have a massive amount of orders and we can’t get those.”


Like the rest of us, HME providers are also concerned about contracting Covid-19, but unlike many of us, lots of those positions can’t be done from home. At Bedard Pharmacy, they are doing their best on social distancing, says Sean Andrews.

“We have space to segregate each department,” he said. “They each have their own break rooms, bathrooms and they can’t go into anyone else’s.”


Tyler Riddle has been keeping an ongoing log of the situation as it unfolded in his corner of Georgia. He’s got an eye to the future.

“At the end of this, we are using all of this information to strengthen our narrative so when we go back to Congress we can say, ‘Hey, competitive bidding is egregious, this is what we do on the front line,” he said. “Or when UnitedHealthcare tries to cut reimbursement in three to six months. When a third-party says they are going to go back and audit all these claims we have a strong record of everything we did.”

by: Theresa Flaherty - Wednesday, March 4, 2020

We’re back in Las Vegas, complete with hand sanitizer stations in the lobby of Mandalay Bay and conspicuously thinner crowds in the restaurants and at the blackjack tables in the casino, what with the unfortunate confluence of coronavirus panic and Medtrade Spring. I’ve shaken plenty of hands. I’ve also done some no-contact hand waves and one elbow bump. Hey, whatever works!

Medtrade SXSW

Show Director Mark Lind is definitely shaking hands. He’s also working the show floor, moving from booth to booth to check in with exhibitors.

He asked us if we’d heard anything from providers about the big move next year to Phoenix.

Truthfully, everyone’s been asking ME what I think and, personally, I say, why the hell not? I love coming to Vegas but I can see where a change of scenery might be a good thing. It’s less expensive and surely, there’s less smoking everywhere.

Still, if you aren’t happy, Lind, who’s begun putting his stamp on the HME industry’s signature event, wants to know about it.

“Send them to me,” he said. “I won’t hide from it. I’m easy to find. I’m the guy with the bow tie.”

Gallagher Power

There’s another conference here, something about Gallagher Power. (They're in insurance, the guy in the elevator told me.) Signs extorting "Gallagher Power" abound and there are thousands of people moving en masse, adorned with bright Gallagher lanyards around their necks. So far, the HME industry’s own version of Gallagher Power, VGM’s John Gallagher, doesn’t seem to have let this newfound power go to his head.

Pretty sure he's loving it, though. I know the rest of us are.

Merv Griffin, who?

One of the most immediate changes upon Lind’s tenure is the AAHomecare Update, which has been rejiggered—possibly reimagined—as the Merv Griffin Show. Lots of attendees (yours truly included) got the joke.

Not so for provider Josh Marx, which he freely admitted.

“I don’t know who Merv Griffin is,” said he, as he took the mic during the update.

That admission also garnered plenty of chuckles. But his, uh, shorter cultural reference timeframe, is also a good thing. It shows that yes, there is still new blood getting in to the industry. And the industry needs that new blood to drag the industry kicking and screaming into a new era, one it needs to adapt to.

That’s true of the need to consider how you sell, what you sell, and who pays for it. (Hint, not necessarily Medicare.)

Stay tuned.

by: Theresa Flaherty - Wednesday, February 19, 2020

HME News World HQ is located in a tiny little dip where the land meets the sea. There are three roads out, all uphill. In yesterday’s snowstorm, which wasn’t markedly different than any other snowstorm, I found myself unable to coax my car up the steep hill to Main Street. Literally halfway up, it refused to budge and I found myself reversing direction back down the hill to relative safety.

The whole scene called to mind the often Sisyphean tasks providers contend with, namely fixing the competitive bidding program. For example, they get a bill introduced, they start pushing it up the hill, and then the clock runs out. Or they get CRT accessories excluded, only for vents to be added.

Often, it simply starts to feel like such a long slog: for me to write about, certainly, but also for our famous “stakeholders,” tasked with the endless cycle of calls and meetings and lawmaker visits.

Speaking of stakeholders, this week’s MAMES member bulletin highlights this beautifully. The top story: “Legislative Update: No change from last week.”

That's what we in the biz call a slow news week!

Fortunately, the bill IS picking up cosponsors, most recently Rep. Morgan, R-Va. on Feb. 6. With the impeachment boondoggle behind us, perhaps lawmakers can now turn to other matters, but time will tell.

As for me, I headed in a different direction and eventually made it home, no worse of the wear.