2020: A Year to Remember?

Or maybe forget. To be sure, the year everybody loves to hate has made some lasting impacts on the HME industry.

David KopfOn March 3, I boarded a quick commuter flight across the Mojave to attend Medtrade Spring in Las Vegas. Up until that day, COVID-19 seemed to me like something happening on the other side of the world. I remember watching cable news footage of legions of construction equipment building hospitals at a breakneck pace far away in China. There had been diagnosed patients in the United States by then, but it certainly didn’t feel like an emergency; not like in China.

But things did feel … odd. My flight was barely occupied. The usual cab line at the McCarran International had disappeared. There was no traffic for my cabbie to fight through to get to the Mandalay Bay Hotel. In fact, the bustling gambling and entertainment town was as deserted as, well, the desert surrounding the city. The hotel, the event, the plane ride up to Canada for the International Seating Symposium, and the trip back down to home — all of it felt "off." A run-of-the-mill business trip suddenly become a journey into a Twilight Zone episode.

And the episode kept getting weirder and more horrific from there. If ever there was a year that needed a Rod Serling narration, it’s 2020. The week before Medtrade, the United States had its first COVID-19 fatality. The week after I got back, the WHO officially declared a pandemic. The week after that, my state of residence, California, announced its first state-wide shelter in place order. Now, as the year wraps, more than 1.66 million people have perished from the disease, with 311,000 of them being Americans.

On top of that horrific toll, we had the complete economic chaos that resulted from COVID-19, as well as the misery of the lockdown itself. Here in the west, we had a fire season that saw more than 52,000 wildfires burn 8.8 million acres. We had political and social unrest. And the Pacific Northwest had its first incursion of murder hornets. Yes, murder hornets. Worse, that quick summary barely scratches the surface of the Worst Year Ever. Truly, 2020 has been a year to forget.

But I don’t want to forget it, because as much as I feel beat down by this stupid year, it’s also inspired me: As I worked from home, I watched my kids grow incredibly creative in the ways that they interact online with their friends despite the physical distancing. I spent more time engaging online with folks I haven’t seen in ages. I watched people around the world play mini-concerts from their balconies. I saw artists and entertainers explore what was possible through video conferencing. And I watched the HME industry move mountains and develop entirely new business and care strategies at the drop of a hat in order to keep serving their patients. 

Providers developed and implemented measures to mitigate the spread of the disease. They rethought how they would interact with patients; how they would drop off and pick up equipment; how they would work with referral partners; how they would protect their staff; how they would comply with state stay-at-home guidelines; how they would maintain their supply chains; and how they would keep their businesses running in all this unforeseen chaos.

On the legislative and regulatory side of things, the industry’s state and national associations and various industry advocates ensured that the industry was represented in critical legislative responses, such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, as well as in key CMS regulatory responses such as its relaxation of various guidelines related to DMEPOS providers.

We saw the industry’s manufacturers, distributors and service businesses work to ensure supply chains remained reliable and to devise new solutions to help keep providers in operation. And, I’d like to think the HME Business helped in our own small way through our regular coverage of the public health emergency through news, features and episodes of the HMEB Podcast; through creating our COVID-19 Solution Center; and by introducing our online DemoCasts to help providers see products and ask vendors questions in real-time since they couldn’t go to expos or attend in-services. 

Anyway, I’m starting to ramble, but I took a good deal of inspiration away from how this industry responded to a year that I think most everyone would rather forget. That said, I am definitely going to very happily ring in 2021. Here’s to the happiest of New Years — we deserve it after this one.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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