From the editor’s desk: A Q&A on home healthcare with Stephanie Lepore
The Baby Boomers are at it again. According to a recent study from the National Council on Aging, most adults intend to stay in their homes for the remainder of their lives—a number that will certainly swell in the coming years as millions age into Medicare. As a result, 67 percent of seniors are demanding access to healthcare services from their homes, which has created a booming market for organizations catering to those living at home, including home medical equipment (HME), durable medical equipment (DME), home health and hospice providers. That’s why we recently sat down with Stephanie Lepore, editor at HomeCare Magazine, to learn more about where the home healthcare industry’s headed—and talk a bit about magazines while we were at it.
Dodge: Like many of us at Dodge, you’re a fellow UGA grad and alumna of Grady College. Tell us how you got into editing—specifically for such a niche part of the healthcare industry?
Lepore: I’ve always had a passion for writing, so I knew early on it would be my focus. I majored in Magazines at UGA and post-graduation, I joined Southern Living and then Coastal Living. I worked at the copy desk and as a writer on the home beat at both publications. After that, I freelanced full time, where I wrote and edited for a variety of well-known publications and brands: Williams-Sonoma, USA Today, Cooking Light, Huffington Post and more. Basically, I never saw a job in healthcare coming my way. A few years ago, my boss at HomeCare “found” me on LinkedIn, and we did some back and forth for a few months before I decided to ditch my yoga pants for an office with a window that looks onto a local barbecue joint. The bottom line is: I love the process of putting together a magazine, so joining the HomeCare team was a no-brainer. This is what I’ve always done, now I’m just constantly learning about new topics since healthcare’s always changing. I like the challenge.
Dodge: The home healthcare market is expanding like crazy. Concurrently, we know HomeCare is broadening editorially this year to reach home healthcare and hospice providers. Where do you think the industry’s headed over the next few years?
Lepore: We’re seeing a real shift toward collaborative care. It’s a win-win for everyone: All of these healthcare professionals working together to create a spectrum of care that makes sense for businesses AND patients. Take HME providers for example. Competitive bidding has strongly impacted their bottom lines, so many are trying to get creative to strengthen their businesses. As a result, many are partnering with hospitals, healthcare agencies, etc., to offer services beyond the reach of competitive bidding. At the same time, this collaborative approach is making it easier to deliver care for a growing, aging Baby Boomer population—most of whom want high-quality, hassle-free care. A collaborative approach offers Boomers the one-stop point of contact for care that they’re seeking.
Dodge: As we look ahead to 2016, what are the top 2-3 things that will keep your readers up at night?
Lepore: Profits and bottom lines will continue to be the anxiety-inducer. We’re hearing many organizations ask: “How do I offer more and stay afloat?” Managed care is also going to be a hurdle in for our HME providers as they figure out how to retail their products—something they haven’t done before. Baby Boomers now have disposable income, and they’d much rather purchase their medical equipment whenever and from whomever they want, not where CMS dictates they go. So, we’re anticipating many HME providers will be learning how to market their products well—building a digital presence and focusing on upselling, for example. It might seem scary at first but we think it’s doable for providers if broken down and taken one step at a time—prescribing to the good-better-best retail inventory seems like the smartest plan to me. That’s where HomeCare comes in too—we have experts who are eager to share their retail, marketing and digital expertise with readers.
Dodge: How do you think technology will contribute to the industry’s continued expansion?
Lepore: I think technology is imperative. As a home healthcare provider, you can’t do the above—grow and offer more services—without streamlining processes. Efficiency is key, and technology enables these healthcare workers to store patient data and other information that’s easily accessible by all parties. Plus, we live in a digital, “I want it now” kind of world. Putting on my reporting hat, I’m always leery of businesses who don’t have solid websites or at least some sort of strong digital presence, even if it’s only social media. In the same way, as a patient, I want care from folks who are connected and can access data and important statistics with one click. It’s a point of view I know many of our readers also share.
Dodge: Fall is a big tradeshow season for our editors and clients alike. Any upcoming events you’re looking forward to? What are you expecting to hear from the industry while on the floor?
Lepore: We love Medtrade! We’ll be sponsoring the event’s “New Product Pavilion” and “Innovative Retail Product Awards,” so we’re looking forward to seeing how HME providers and vendors are using technology to address some of the challenges I mentioned above. I feel like the industry has returned to center following the first round of competitive bidding, so I’m hoping attendees will continue to keep up the positivity. After Medtrade, I’m headed to Boston for LeadingAge’s Annual Meeting and Expo for long-term care providers. I’m really looking forward to learning as an attendee and it looks like the show has some great sessions on aging services lined up.