Inter-company relationships strengthen weaknesses
by Tom Ryan

Clichés get a bad rap. Yet the reason that a saying becomes exhausted from overuse is because it expresses a universal truth or experience. Who hasn’t heard at least one of the following? No man is an island. United we stand, divided we fall. All for one, and one for all. We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. Divide and conquer. We may want to believe that we are unique, that we have gotten to a point where we are by relying solely on our own resources—be they brains, brawn or something else—but if we truly think about our successes and honestly give credit where credit is due, we can all point to at least one other person who has helped us when it counted. And most of us are lucky enough to have a whole host of great people in our lives, from inspirational teachers to loyal employees and understanding spouses. In the early days of my HME business, when I was just starting out and money was tight, I could always rely on the friendly competitors in town to help make sure my customers were taken care of. Back then, I could only afford to stock three hospital beds at one time. On busy days when they had all been delivered and more were ordered, I would call a company in town and—even on Saturday—they would meet me at their warehouse so that I could get what I needed. We all have goals and ways of achieving them. Everyone has areas in which they are particularly gifted and areas in which to improve. Still, we are all part of the same community, and we must collaborate even as we compete. As a community, one company’s strength can complement another’s weakness, making us all stronger together. Just as it is important that HME companies work together, it is necessary for us to reach out to all of the other parts of the home care community: patients, medical professionals and associated organizations. One reason is that we should pay particular attention to the voices of those who are the only reason we even have businesses. Another is simply that unity does not come from being the same, but from having the same purpose. Our purpose, and that of the entire home care community, is to get home medical equipment into the hands of those who need it. The Association has strong relationships with two of the largest patient groups in the country: National Council on Independent Living and United Spinal Association. One of the many benefits of collaborating with these groups is that we are able to collect data from their members regarding the impact of Medicare’s competitive bidding program. This data strengthens our case when we speak with members of Congress and people at CMS about changes that must be made because of this seriously mismanaged program. We also work regularly with the Independence Through Enhancement of Medicare and Medicaid (ITEM) coalition, which includes a number of consumer and professional groups. AAHomecare is also making progress building relationships with medical professionals through outreach to groups such as the American Academy of Home Care Physicians, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, American Sleep Apnea Association and Association for the Advancement of Wound Care. Their members are just as frustrated with Medicare’s coverage policies as we are, and many of them are also being hammered by audits. These same professionals see the damage done to patients when honest, reliable HME providers are driven out of business by poorly constructed government regulations. Along with working together on projects, AAHomecare frequently attends events in an official capacity to promote our message and make additional contacts. Attending galas and lobby days helps foster good professional relationships and increases our visibility among the members of allied organizations. United, the home care community is strong. To stay strong, each of us has to make the effort to reach a hand out to others within our community. If you would like more information about the partnerships AAHomecare has developed, or would like tips on how to collaborate with the friendly competitors and organizations in your local area, e-mail senior director of government affairs, Jay Witter at