AAHomecare: A No-Holds-Barred Interview with President Tom Ryan

We invited AAHomecare President Tom Ryan to a B.S.-free interview, and he agreed. Here’s what happened. 

HME Voice AA Homecare Interview

A funny thing often happens to people who move to Washington D.C. and become a part of the system: they start to speak in vague and give answers to questions that aren’t really answers at all. For our latest edition of HME Voice, Kevin Gaffney and I invited the president of AA Homcare, Tom Ryan, for an interview. However, we wanted this interview to be a straight up, honest discussion devoid of all political-speak; hard facts only. Tom agreed (we even had a B.S. Meter just in case), and we ended up with a terrific show that covered a lot of different and important topics.

We started Tom off easy, asking him about the big obstacles he’s tackled since starting the job in September of last year. The focus, Tom said, has been “to reconnect this D.C.-focused association to its constituents.”

“When I first came in I said ‘It’s good that we’re in D.C., and it’s bad that we’re in D.C.,’” Tom said. “The good part is that I’ve been out of D.C.; I’m a provider, and I get what it takes and know what it’s like out there. We’ve got to make sure our members are getting a good feeling from us that we have some empathy.”

Tom also said that when it comes to AAHomecare’s goals and the industry as a whole, everyone must measure themselves to make sure they are moving in the right direction. The main direction for AAHomecare is being a leader in and representing the industry. If AAHomecare does what it does best, Tom said, this translates into success for the rest of industry.

“If we’re winning, the provider is healthy again. If we’re winning, the provider is giving the patient good quality access to care and good quality medical equipment,” Tom said.

Working  in Washington D.C. with all the higher ups in government agencies can often lead people to forget the small guys that are grinding every day in the HME. As a former provider, Tom said he’s thought a lot about these smaller providers and their place in an industry that needs to innovate, and he thinks they have an advantage.

“The small provider has the ability to be nimble, has the ability to refocus and they are a viable part of this industry,” Tom said. “I think there’s a place for everybody here.”

In an industry poised for growth – a recent study  indicated the demand for home medical equipment will increase 8.2 percent ($12.6 BILLION in sales) between now and 2018 – it’s the smaller, niche-based providers that are in great position to succeed, said Tom.

“More and more health care is going toward not the number of widget you put out there, but for the health care outcomes, for the patient satisfaction, and for how you can hopefully control some of the higher costs in the health care continuum, such as hospital readmissions,” he explained. “It’s that smaller provider who has that ability to reach out to those caregivers and other consumers and take a larger piece of the retail niche.”

It was at this point that transitioned into a question that many people in the HME industry see as a bit controversial: is AA Homecare as a competitor to VGM?

Tom’s answer: no.

While he said both organizations are competing for the same members’ dollars, AA Homecare and VGM are two different types of organizations. VGM is a for-profit company whose strengths are providing direct service to their members and using their communication channels to keep the industry informed on changes, he said.

“That’s collaboration, and I’m thrilled we can work together like that,” Tom said.

Where AAHomecare differs from VGM is in its status as a not-for-profit national association for the HME industry, a responsibility Tom said the organization takes very seriously. A lot goes on in Washington D.C. related to the HME industry, from delicate negotiations to meetings with congressional committees and top officials, Tom said, and it’s AA Homecare’s status as a national association that gets them in the door with these happenings.

“This is nothing disparaging against VGM; VGM is a terrific partner, a terrific industry advocate and they are a wonderful grass roots machine,” Tom said. “The reality is…there are places we can go, conversations we can have that other companies simply can’t.”

It is this access to a lot of the inner workings in congressional committees and CMS that has given Tom and AAHomecare a great view of the HME industry. Kevin brought up idea that CMS and the government view health care as a commodity because of the way the industry did business in the past. Tom noted that there were a lot of services “given away,” but said since health care makes up 16 percent of the country’s GDP, CMS and the government see the HME industry as another expense. It’s up to AAHomecare and the HME industry to show CMS and Washington D.C. they can provide return on investment.

“A lot of people on [Capitol Hill] want to make us a one measure focus only, which is the price of the good,” Tom said. “We’ve got to get on the other side of that argument and let them know there is a return on the investment for us to provide good quality health care. Let us get to that table and let us have that discussion. The only way we get there is to, little by little, get credibility.”

One way they are working on gaining credibility is through an online and social media initiative at SaveMyMedicalSupplies.org. The website, which launched recently, allows patients, family members, caregivers and health care providers to send their congressional representatives an email asking them to help save their medical supplies. In the first three days, Tom said they had 725 emails sent to congressional representatives.

I repeat: 725 emails in three days. That is seriously impressive, people!

Another opportunity is coming up for people in HME to support the industry they are a part of, Tom said. The AAHomecare Legislative Conference, May 7-8, is a chance to “come out and storm [Capitol Hill].”

“I’m all about doing our constitutional right, which is lobby your government,” Tom said. “We need to get out there and make our voices heard.”

Registration and information about the information can be found on AAHomecare’s website.

Perhaps the most pressure-packed question came at the end of the interview, with Kevin asking Tom when the Jets were going to win the Super Bowl again. Tom stuck to his guns as a Jets fan, saying “now is our time” and calling the Jets to win the next Super Bowl. When the Jets bring home the next Super Bowl, just remember HME Voice is where you heard it called first.

I want to thank Tom for coming on to our show and providing us with some truly great stuff. It’s never easy agreeing to play with no rules, but Tom, you played the game perfectly. Be sure to check out SaveMyMedicalSupplies.org and the AAHomecare website for info on the AAHomecare Legislative Conference May 7 and 8. Until the next HME Voice, keep grinding and finding ways to thrive!

Demand, Diversification and Retail, OH MY! Keys to Surviving the Next 18 Months

HME Voice: Diversification Retail Survivial

You always hear about “must-see” events on TV these days. Well, folks, I’m telling you that our latest episode of HME Voice is a “must-listen!” We were joined by three guys that will be presenting at the Medtrade Conference in October as part of the “6-4-18” series of six building blocks for survival and success in the HME industry in the next 18 months.

Our first guest was Brian LaDuke, Vice President of Enterprise Marketing at Invacare. As one of the leading manufacturers of home medical equipment products, Invacare has the resources to look at the industry as a whole, and Brian said despite the gloomy feeling in the industry, it’s a good place to be.

“Clearly this industry is facing its challenges, but we really see that there’s a second side to this story, there’s a page two and there’s a lot of opportunity for success in this industry,” Brian said. “The Baby Boomers are clearly aging…so being in the home medical equipment space, from a demand standpoint, is a great space to be in. We all just have to learn how to do it more effectively in order to generate the profit that we all want.”

Brian also touched on research done by Invacare about the quality of products the most financially successful providers are purchasing. In their research, the most financially sound providers are purchasing higher quality products.

Brian said that in the race to cut costs, many providers are switching to cheaper, lower quality products. However, this doesn’t always help as lower quality equipment, while initially less expensive, incurs more maintenance costs.

Stocking quality products was also a point touched on by our second guest, Bruce Brothis of Allegiant Billing and Consulting, Inc. By having a good-better-best stock of products available in a retail setting, you appeal to the changing demographics of the people making purchasing decisions, Bruce said.

“It’s typically not the patient coming in and visiting the DME store anymore, its typically the son or daughter, nephew or niece that’s caring for that person, and typically they have disposable income,” he said. “They’re making the purchase decision right there on the spot and typically are not happy with the bare-bone minimum offerings; they like to have more upgraded products, and they’re willing to spend [the money].”

Bruce also provided a few tips about finding success by switching to a more retail-based model. Being stuck back in the corner of a business park isolated from high-traffic areas is no longer going to work. For a retail plan to succeed, Bruce recommended having at least 800 sq. ft. of space that’s in public place with a lot of drive-by or foot traffic. A successful retail DME operation also needs to have the right sales staff, said Bruce.

“Retail sales is not a place for order takers in the DME world,” Bruce said. “Retail is not grocery store retail, it’s retail with some people on the floor that can cross-sell and know what they’re talking about.”

Finally, Bruce touched on operating efficiencies, and how the biggest part of finding success is finding the right number of employees and making sure they are trained, especially those in billing or reimbursement positions.

Our final guest was Jonathan Sadock, Managing Partner and CEO of Paragon Ventures. As someone who works with valuing companies for sale and purchase, Jonathan was able to give us a unique look at the industry. He said that whether you are looking at selling your company or acquiring another business, being idle is not an option in today’s industry.

“To move forward and survive, business owners need to be active in one sense or another,” Jonathan said. “Now is not the time to be sitting idly by and watching what everybody else does and hoping you can squeeze with business as usual. In fact it’s business as unusual.”

Jonathon was able to give us some insight into what factors increase or decrease the value of a company, such as:

  • Do you have contracts?
  • How the business is managed: do you purchase well?
  • Do you manage your employees well? Are people working at efficiency?
  • Are you maintaining your equipment well?
  • Your company’s relationships with other payers besides Medicare (big hospital systems, etc.)
  • A strong sales team with great relationships with accounts and referral sources

As if the importance and opportunities created by a retail model wasn’t apparent already, Jonathon confirmed that in the eyes of financial experts, retail and similar models are the way to go.

“The models in which they’re making it easy for a patient to come into your store and to upsell them on products and services that you’re offering on a cash basis, is absolutely looked at, especially by the private equity firms, as part of the future of how this industry is going to evolve down the road,” he said.

People, we are in a time of change in our industry; we all know this. But not all news is bad. The demand for our products and services will continue to grow, we just need to find new ways of working to succeed. Success can be had in the coming months, but it depends on you to go out there and get it.

I’d like to thank my wonderfully insightful guests, Brian LaDuke, Bruce Brothis and Jonathan Sadock for joining myself and Kevin Gaffney on the HME Voice. You guys provided a ton of great information, advice and tips, and now it’s up to the listeners and readers to get active. Until next time, stay safe and keep a positive mindset in your work!

A Quadriplegic Business Owner, A Turn-around Artist and an Amputee Veteran Enter a Booth…

HME Voice

In the middle of a business or life crisis? Learn from the Masters on how to overcome any challenge you are facing.

I was so excited for this latest HME Voice show, as we were addressing the question of “How do we get out of this?” surrounding everyone dealing with competitive bidding. Our guests provided a ton of great insight into dealing with adversity and facing the facts in difficult situations.

Liz Beaulieu of HME News gave a brief update on a bonanza of stories on competitive bidding to start off the show. The amount of frustration is concerning, especially on the part of the beneficiaries.  Everyone, from HME providers to those in desperate need of medical equipment, is still very much fighting competitive bidding. As I said, there is an overwhelming feeling of “How am I going to get through this?” Well, the reality is all of us will face a crisis that will threaten our existence.

Mike Sperduti and Kevin Gaffney

Mike Sperduti and Kevin Gaffney conducting interviews for the HME Voice.

Our first guest, Bryan Anderson of Pride Mobility Products, offered up a few philosophies on how to overcome a difficult personal situation and how that relates to business.

Bryan lost both legs and his left arm below the elbow while on a tour of duty in Iraq for the U.S. Army.  This man is a hero in every regard, from fighting on the front lines for our country to facing his physical challenges head-on and making the most out of his experience.  As our lead-off guest, Bryan spoke to those who are, at this very moment, facing a threat in either their business or personal life.

“The military trained us not to panic in high stress situations, calm down and process everything so that you can think your way through,” Bryan said. “I didn’t want to put any limits on myself.  I wasn’t going to be that guy that says, ‘I don’t have any legs, I’m not going to climb a tree.’  I’m not gonna tell myself that until I try to climb a tree.”

Bryan did just that when faced with a losing three of his limbs. “I passed out in the helicopter, woke up 7 days later at Walter Reed.  I started looking around and assessing myself,” Bryan said.

He took an active approach to his life, something he could do because he accepted his situation. He snowboards, wakeboards and skateboards, and is planning to go surfing in December. While his situation is unique, Bryan believes he’s no worse off than anyone else.

“A lot of people assume I have it worse than most people and they have no right to complete, but we all have our own issues and handle them in our own way,” he said. “If you believe you can do it, you can do it no matter what your situation is.”

Bryan encouraged everyone to use the tools they have around them to help improve their situation. He also said you have to realize that panicking about the situation you’re in will only make it worse. By calming yourself down and processing the situation in front of you, you can put yourself in a position to make better decisions and come away with an acceptable solution to the problem.  Instead of dwelling on your problem, face the facts and act.

Second in our lineup was Regis Farrell a nationally-recognized turn-around artist.  Not only is Regis my personal mentor, but he is by far the best at what he does, and really hit the nail on the head as far as what HME providers can do to resuscitate their business.

Regis said that in order to turn things around, a plan for growth needs to be made, the right leadership team needs to be in place, the plan needs to be communicated to everyone and that employees need to be rewarded for success and growth. But all this is easier said than done, right? Well, Regis provided a few details to fill in the blanks.

To create a plan of growth, you need to gain an understanding of the financials from the last three to four years. What has increased, what has decreased?  Once you have a solid understanding of your financials, you can identify where you need to grow. However, you also need the team to get you there.

Interview all managers and people in leadership positions about their short and long term goals. You need to make sure your leadership team wants to grow, has the skill sets to do so and are qualified to be there, Regis said.

Once you have your growth plan and leadership team, the leaders need to communicate that plan to everyone – employees, investors, shareholders, lenders and all other stakeholders. This not only helps everyone stay accountable, but also shows investors and lenders “here’s where we are, here’s where we’re going, and this is what we’re doing to get there.”

Finally, you need to boost morale with quarterly bonuses. Yes, we know you may be strapped for cash, but when sales goals are hit and revenues are made, a simple thing like a bonus (based on how that person helped reach the goal, not a hand out) can go a long way toward creating a better working environment.

Regis is the man, so you can take all these suggestions to the bank!

We ended our show with Steve Kitchin, president of Indiana-based ConvertaStep.  As another individual who has overcome personal tragedy, Steve is acutely aware of needs in the disabled population and has applied lessons learned from his physical challenges to business practices at ConvertaStep.

Steve talked about his reaction to waking up one morning as a quadriplegic, as a result of an auto accident.  “Redefine yourself,” Steve said.  “There is no way you could be the person you were in the past, but think about what you can be now.”  He went on to tell us how you’ve got to accept what you can’t control and build from your assets to ensure your future.

Steve described a time shortly after his accident when he remembers a Christopher Reeve book just hitting the shelves called “Still Me” and thinking, “No, I’m not.  I can’t be the same guy that I was.  I’ve got to do things differently because if I still try and be me, I’m going to have nothing but frustration.”  This is a perfect example of the mentality Steve applies to his business practices.

Steve said the key is to accept what you can’t control, but find new ways to break through to success. This ties in perfectly with the issues facing HME providers right now with competitive bidding. While we are in no way giving up on an alternative solution to DMEPOS competitive bidding, we do have to accept the new rules for the time being. However, that shouldn’t prevent you from exhausting all other options of finding revenue to keep your company alive.

I want to sincerely thank our guests, Bryan Anderson, Regis Farrell and Steve Kitchin for speaking with us for this show. You guys are rock stars and inspirations for those in the HME/DME business right now looking for a way to get around competitive bidding.

People, I encourage you to take what these guys talked about and apply it to your life. Tough times call for acceptance of the difficulties at hand and the courage to look for change. I hope you all are able to find something that inspires you to take action and know you can overcome ANYTHING after this edition of HME Voice.

Click here to listen to the most recent HME Voice!

Toothless in Waterloo: My Personal VGM Heartland Experience

It’s Monday, June 4th, 2012 in Waterloo, Iowa. I’m in my hotel room. My head is spinning.  Mike Sperduti toothless at VGM Heartland ConferenceThe first thought that pops into my head is, “Holy sh**, what happened last night?” Am I missing a tooth?!  The scene I’m describing is not from the movie ‘The Hangover.’  This actually happened to me at VGM Heartland, and is part of the reason I’ll keep coming back to this great conference year after year.

In order to explain, I’ll need to start from the beginning.  In 2010, my buddy Bill Klein was to be the keynote speaker for VGM Heartland.  At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about VGM besides the fact that it was in Waterloo.  I really didn’t want to go, but decided to anyways in order to support my friend during his first big keynote speech.

I was bitching and moaning until we arrived.  Then somebody extremely nice and very smart picked us up.  They took us to our hotel and gave us home-baked cookies.  At this point, I was thinking that was cute and quaint, but nothing else.

The next day, we took a tour of VGM headquarters.  We walked through Homelink and my eyes were opened.  I was amazed with its state-of-the-art call center and unbelievable operation for serving thousands or probably millions of patients every year.  You could compare Homelink to NASA, and NASA could learn some things from them.  Our guide was describing how their technology interfaced with members and I realized there was a lot more to Waterloo than I previously thought.

We toured all the operating divisions, and were introduced to all the great people here including Van Miller.  Here is the CEO and founder of this huge business, and he was gracious enough to spend a half hour with me.  Me being me, and a student of business, I wanted to understand how he built this great business in Waterloo.  How did he find all these great, smart people and what was the secret to his success?  I soon discovered that his secret was simple: find good people, support the heck out of them and then let them do their thing.

What is so impressive about Van Miller and VGM is the loyalty factor.   It’s the loyalty Van has to his employees and his devotion to his members, the loyalty VGM associates have to VGM and the pride everyone takes in wearing the VGM logo and serving their customers.   I heard a story once about when Derek Jeter first put on the New York Yankees pinstripes and what it meant to him.  He immediately felt the responsibility to live up to the legends of Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio.  Well, that same pride exists in every VGM associate, and is obvious through the hospitality of every associate who volunteers at VGM Heartland.  And it’s that very VGM hospitality that led to why I was missing a tooth!

Just when I thought I understood Midwest hospitality, they took to it to a whole new level.  Two years later, at the same conference, I woke up with an aching tooth.  The pain was so excruciating I couldn’t even think, and I was scheduled to speak the next day.  So I got dressed and wandered into the convention center.

I see Jim Phillips, Greg Schmitz, Tom Powers and some other folks( all top executives with the company).  As soon as I told them I was in pain and needed help, they dropped what they were doing.  Everybody started dialing phone numbers and quickly got me a dental appointment.  Tom Powers (my hero) was able to get me an appointment within 10 minutes.  The next thing you know, I was escorted to the dentist and 30 minutes later I had my tooth yanked out of my head.  This dentist had to be between 75 and 85 years old.  He told me that he could get rid of my tooth without any pain.  Who would believe that?  Long story short, 20 minutes after leaving his office I was eating lunch.  I experienced no pain, no swelling, spoke clearly and had no bleeding.  It was miraculous what that man did to me!

The next night, you can imagine what a great mood I was in.  The speeches went well, I’d met all these great people from VGM, I met a lot of my clients, my tooth felt much better and it was time to celebrate.  And when I say celebrate, I mean this New Yorker was doing the two-step in some country bar in Waterloo, Iowa.  And that is how I ended up toothless in Waterloo.

What’s on this year’s agenda?

  1. Presenting “The Elephant Man Married a Super Model!  The Secret to Achieving Big Goals and Winning New Patient Referrals” at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 12th.
  2. Presenting “The Power of Love (Upcaring): the Key to Cash Sales” at 9:00am Thursday, June 13th.
  3. Presenting with Jeremy Kauten on “The Referral Source Speaks: Digital Media” at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 13th.
  4. Exhibiting as the newly appointed president of Renewal Technologies.
  5. A dentist appointment with my favorite new Waterloo dentist.
  6. And maybe a tattoo – it’s Heartland in Waterloo, right?!


About the Author:

Mike Sperduti is president of Emerge Sales, Inc. and recently appointed president of Renewal Technologies, Inc.  Sperduti is leading the expansion of LaserTouchOne, a breakthrough pain relieving device.  He is charged with connecting and empowering healthcare providers with the millions of people in pain with this remarkable innovation and giving them a renewed quality of life.

How did the Elephant Man marry a supermodel?

An Important Lesson in Business

Elephant Man Supermodel Business Rejection Lesson

This is not an actual photo of Mike, the Elephant Man and his wife.

This week, I am giving a presentation at the Premier Conference in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The title of my presentation is bound to turn a few heads, but even more so, will help all attendees achieve their goals for 2013 be it business or personal. Read on and get inspired to turn rejection around in 2013!

“How did the Elephant Man marry a super model?” is about accomplishing big goals that you may think are impossible. There is one simple formula for doing anything impossible, which I learned this from my friend Mike or “The Elephant Man”, the greatest salesperson in one of the first companies I worked for.

When I was a kid, my first big job was trading commodities such as sugar and crude oil. I worked at the World Trade Center and because I was a young broker, I always looked to mimic the best broker I could find. This is the same thing that I recommend in all my sales classes. Find who is the best at what you do, find out what they’re doing and then you do it. Anyways, I noticed this guy Mike who was about 20 years older than me. I started hanging around him and eventually, had the good fortune of becoming friends with him.

One thing about Mike was that physically, he was not very attractive. I don’t judge people by their looks at all, but behind his back, other brokers would refer to him as “the Elephant Man”. The best way I can describe him is that he had a poor complexion and a body like the Michelin Man. I became friends with him and one day after work, he asked if I wanted to go out. It was ladies night at this place called Buttle’s Nightclub.

That night, Mike approached the hottest women in the club and proceeded to get cruel rejections from all of them. This continued in every establishment we visited that year. He would always ask me, “Who is the hottest girl here?” and then he would go over there and try to get a date with these women. I would always see the girls wincing when he came up to them. I’ll bet he approached hundreds of women that year.

One day, we were at a supermarket and he asked me, “Who is the hottest girl here?” There was this cute little brunette across the aisle. He walked over to her and from my vantage point, I could see that she liked him. They started talking and she said, “Yes, I’ll go out with you.” I thought it was amazing. She said “yes” to a first date, “yes” to a second date, “yes” to marrying him and today, he is married to one of the most beautiful women both inside and out.

The thing I learned about Mike’s process is that he didn’t feel the rejection at all. He just felt that the right one would be at the right time, the right place and that it would take a bunch of these conversations to get it. Now, take his scenario, crystalize it and then create a game plan to help you accomplish your own goals. If you have a big goal, you need to go out and get it. Understand that every rejection is bringing you one step closer to the answer you’re looking for.

The reason why I am presenting this at the Premier Conference is because I think everyone can relate to it. In business today, getting a customer has become much harder and keeping an account has become harder. Business owners and sales people need to realize, getting rejected a hand full of times doesn’t mean the year will be a disaster, it just means you need to make more calls. For every “no” you get, you are closer to a “yes.”

How many people do you know who have settled? They sold themselves short, have had bad luck and accepted that they would never reach their goal? The only reason it’s not going to happen for them is because they gave up. I truly believe, if the Elephant Man married a supermodel, then you can accomplish what you set out to accomplish and I can too!

A Lesson in Business Learned from Hurricane Sandy

Preparation Kills Employee Incompetence 

Recently, my hometown was hit with the worst hurricane recorded in the last 100 years.  As in any nightmare situation, there are two different responses.  People either rise to the occasion and make things better or more likely, folks fold and make things worse.  A perfect example of this was the gas (or lack of gas) situation in New York and New Jersey. 

Read more on the Hurricane Sandy Gas Crisis.

Lines at gas stations on Long Island after Hurricane Sandy.

The gas situation after Hurricane Sandy was that individuals had to wait in line for hours just to be told that there was no gas left.  In my opinion, this situation was handled so poorly by everyone that it was a real embarrassment to our country, our state and our island.  However, it wasn’t all bad.  There was one example that I witnessed of a gas station that stepped up to the occasion.

The Shamrock gas station didn’t react like everyone else.  They stepped back, analyzed the situation, put in a process and made a bad situation the best it could be.  Where other gas stations had a wait of eight hours or more, The Shamrock averaged less than an hour wait by structuring the flow of approaching traffic, payments and departing traffic.

This same situation relates to our 7 Step and Business & Clinical Communication process.  Just like The Shamrock, we teach students to look at a tough situation and make it the best that it could be.  Business is especially tough in this environment as this is the toughest economy in the last 100 years.  In this nightmare situation, you have a choice – either step up and rise to the occasion or go out of business.  Now is the time to put a process in place just like the Shamrock and examine things from your customer’s point of view.  This is where the magic happens.  You build something that is totally outcome-based.

Who do you want to serve?  How do they need to be served in this environment?  Back yourself in and figure out how to get there.  When someone goes to get a medical document, are they just talking about the document and doing the same things that aren’t producing any results?  What is the difference between someone who does a task right and someone who does the task poorly?  Think about what you want to happen and what you need to happen, and then make it happen.

This week, I encourage you to take a closer look at your business.  Where is the incompetence?  Where is the lack of process?  Is it in your sales, operations, or both?  If you don’t have a process, you are letting people down and letting people down will ultimately drive you out of business.  Don’t your patients, your loved ones and your employees deserve better?

In times of crisis, the key is putting the time in to make the adjustments that make your business work.  Not sometimes, but every time.  This economy is your Hurricane Sandy.  What processes have you changed in order to get better results, to survive this storm?

Adapt, change or die.

You create happiness or sadness – It’s up to you!

Get ready for me to pontificate and let this be your mindset as you enter Medtrade next week…

The reason I am in this business is because what providers do for our friends and family is critical to their life. These providers, when doing their job right, create happiness for their patients and make any condition better. When they do their job right, they make our friends’ and family’s lives better or as good as they can be. When providers do their job wrong, they create incredible sadness and jeopardize our lives. This is something that I don’t think every provider gets. It’s not an order or a piece of paper. Everything we do impacts somebody’s life! When I hear that someone can’t get a document signed by a doctor or supply is not going out that day, it means someone’s family member is not getting cared for.

I’ve had the unfortunate experience of being on the wrong side of healthcare with HME providers. My father had bladder cancer. He relied on an HME provider to ship him ostomy bags. There were countless times when his shipments weren’t delivered on time or were delivered in the wrong size. My father, who is my hero, would have to sit in his own urine and cry because his dignity was taken away. This was all because someone couldn’t get the paperwork right or did not fit him correctly.

Left to right: My dad, Uncle Lou and my mom.

Left to right: My dad, Uncle Lou and my mom.

My uncle was diagnosed with Mesothelioma. When he was serving our country as a Marine, he was exposed to asbestos. Long story short, he was diagnosed and required oxygen. His provider did such a poor job taking care of his oxygen that he begged to go back to the hospital. He feared for his next breath. I just can’t image what it’s like not knowing where your next breath is coming from. He lived his final days terrified because his provider did not do his job right. My uncle finally went back to the hospital and eventually died.

I also know what it’s like when HME providers do a good job. My mother has had diabetes, congestive heart failure and open heart surgery. Through her will, and through the great care of HME providers and home care nurses, she is the vibrant businesswoman you see today. As a matter of fact, you can come meet her in my booth at Medtrade!

The point of this whole discussion is that our HME providers, care coordinators, delivery technicians and home care nurses, every single day create happiness and sadness. The next order you take or the next patient you see – think about if it was your mother, father, sister, daughter or uncle. How would you treat them and what kind of care would you provide someone you loved unconditionally? How fast would you get the paperwork done? How much care would you take to make sure the setup is done right?

It’s time to upcare. Recognize that you are incredibly important to every life you touch. Every single person is counting on you. I’m thrilled that healthcare is heading towards accountability. Our industry needs to be accountable for the lives we serve. Let this Medtrade be the start of a new beginning in recognition. Let’s recognize how important we are and how committed we are to our friends and family when they are in their times of greatest need. Take advantage of the education, new products and networking opportunities to up your game.

Upcare starts today!

HME Voice 1: Mal Mixon Delivers Perspective in HME

It’s been one week since we hosted our first radio show, the HME Voice, hosted by Medtrade Group Show Director Kevin Gaffney and me, Mike Sperduti.

Invacare Chairman Mal Mixon

Invacare Chairman Mal Mixon

This first show featured Invacare Chairman Mal Mixon, News Anchor Liz Beaulieu from HME News and special guest Ryan Ball from The VGM Group.  There were great discussions about the hurdles our providers are experiencing currently and predictions for the future of the HME industry.  What Mr. Mixon was able to deliver perfectly was perspective.

If you listened in on the show, I think you’ll agree that Mal Mixon has clearly seen it all.  He has been to every single Medtrade, he has experienced success and failure in HME and he has been a major player in the industry for over three decades, transforming a small wheelchair manufacturer to a leader in the HME industry.

At the very beginning of our interview with Mal, we had asked him about his story, where he came from and what he did before joining the HME industry.  His views on life reveal why he is able to remain confident about the future of HME.  Mal reflected on what he learned from serving in Vietnam.  He said, “People today get upset about the damnedest things.  I can tell you there are things to worry about and things not to worry about.”

In my experiences, I have met a lot of people who thrive on drama, who believe everything is a big deal.  I’m sure you have several people in mind right now that fit this description.  They get worked up over the line at the grocery store or if a customer calls at the end of the day and this causes them to stay after hours.  They live for making things bigger than they really are.  Competitive Bidding is doing this for many in our industry, these people are freaking out.  Mal Mixon put everything in perspective.

At the end of the day, if you have your health, your house, and your family, then it’s all good.  If you put things in perspective, then obviously things are never as bad as they seem.  Unless something is fatal, there is hope.  If we try harder to live life by the same philosophy that Mal has, then you we will have a happier life.

Considering all of his experiences, Mr. Mixon is not worked up and still firmly believes in the fundamentals of the industry.  He believes in the fact that population is aging, they want to stay at home and it is cheaper for us to take care of them at home.  We can take comfort in the fact that it Mr. Mixon still believes we have a bright future.  It might be a rocky road today, but there will be sunshine after this storm.

I highly recommend going to this link for the HME Voice and taking the time to listen to the entire show.  What I took away from this first show experience is the fact that the future is bright for the HME industry, for Mal Mixon and for the HME Voice.

Where does HME Voice go from here?  Expect to see us around at Medtrade.  We will be interviewing the HME thought leaders and manufacturers on breakthrough technology and the future of our industry.  We will be airing those interviews sometime in October.  If you have any good ideas or want to see the radio station, stop by.  We’ll have the station set up in the exhibit hall at booth 2828.