Briefs from Heartland Conference 2016

Posted on in VGM News

Rifton Trikes for a Couple of Tykes

The sessions at Heartland Conference were kicked off Tuesday morning with a presentation of Rifton Trikes to two children from the Waterloo area. Variety – the Children’s Charity, has been working with Rifton to provide adaptive trikes to children across the country since 2012.

“Awarding specialized bikes is one of the best parts about my job at Variety – the Children’s Charity,” said Sheri McMichael, executive director of the Iowa chapter. “Each presentation is a little different as is each child, but you can always see the appreciation and gratitude the family has for this gift. The best moment is when the child actually gets on the bike and realizes that the bike is theirs to keep.”

The two recipients use adaptive bikes in therapy regularly, so they were extremely excited to receive bikes of their own. To watch a recording of the giveaway, check out U.S. Rehab’s Facebook page

FMA: What Could Save Rehab Industry

Outcomes and data are becoming increasingly important to track patient satisfaction and the success of a mobility intervention. Greg Packer, Ron Turzy and Kayla Mahler presented on how to apply the Functional Mobility Assessment (FMA) to your business and how to get involved.

In 2017, there will be more of an outcomes-based pay structure from CMS based on Patient Reported Outcomes Measures (PROMs). As an outcomes measurement and patient satisfaction tool, the FMA will be one of the most important items that will help save the rehab industry.  With our participation in the FMA, we will be ahead of the program to make sure custom rehab will be involved in the process of developing proactive outcomes benefits.

The information is being compiled to be able to show that when mobility and rehab equipment is provided, the client’s disease state or condition is better managed. We hope to show evidence of healthier days for the client and an overall reduction of health care expenditures. Currently, there is not a national database of complex rehab data of any kind after patients leave their rehab or hospital stay. U.S. Rehab is breaking ground in the development of this data. With the current pressure on our industry to be the niche industry in the Medicare spectrum to save money, the FMA and the data collected from this project will be of the upmost importance.

Dr. Mark Schmeler, Dr. Rich Schein, Dr. Andi Saptono, and Vince Schiappa from the University of Pittsburgh presented some of the preliminary pilot data collected by U.S. Rehab members. One of the most interesting analyses shown was the U.S. Rehab FMA scores at baseline and at follow-up. When compared to the national baseline, U.S. Rehab members are tracking slightly better than the national average. If you want to participate in the FMA outcomes program, you must be a U.S. Rehab member. For more information on how to participate, contact Ron Turzy, VP of Complex Rehab for U.S. Rehab.

Honoring HME Women

An official announcement was made introducing the HME Woman of the Year Award at the Women & Wine event at Heartland Conference. The award will honor a woman who has made significant contributions throughout her career to the HME industry, her business and patients. Open to all women who work in the HME industry, criteria include a passion for service in her professional and personal life, contributions for greater efficiency in her company and innovative thinking to solve problems.

“The purpose of the award is to not only highlight existing leaders, but inspire action and mentorship to grow the HME architects of tomorrow,” commented Mike Mallaro, chief executive officer for VGM Group, Inc. “As the landscape of health care shifts, our industry requires an all-hands-on-deck mentality and growing pool of leaders.”

For more information on the HME Woman of the Year Award, including criteria and the nomination process, visit The winner will be announced at the 2016 Medtrade conference in Atlanta.

Tributes to Van

This years’ Heartland Conference was the first without Van G. Miller, but he is still living through the company in various ways.

The Heartland Conference Annual Golf Tournament will now be named The Van G. Miller Memorial to show appreciation for Van. As a thank you to the 144 members and vendors who played this year, each participant received a divot repair tool that included Van’s signature and the years of his life. 

Following Van’s passing, his family decided to gift his dog, Daisy, to someone in need, and she transitioned into a Retrieving Freedom service dog. A veteran, Van was a very patriotic man and passionate about the community, so the organization seemed like a great fit for Daisy. Retrieving Freedom trains service dogs and places them in the homes of veterans, children with autism or those with diabetes. In Daisy’s case, she will be helping her owner cope with life after combat.

During Heartland Conference, attendees had the chance to meet Daisy and learn more about Retrieving Freedom. They could also support the organization by purchasing raffle tickets for a chance to win a limited-edition framed print. The winner of the print was Thomas Scott of Personal Mobility in Springfield, Illinois. On behalf of Heartland Conference attendees, $2,114 was donated to Retrieving Freedom during a check presentation at the annual gala. In the photo below, Kelly Turner (left) of VGM’s People for Quality Care presents the check to the Retrieving Freedom representatives.

Van was well known throughout the Cedar Valley community. His absence from this year’s Heartland was not lost on the local media. Click here to read an article that appeared in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.

SBA Demonstrates Support to Industry at Heartland

On June 14 at Heartland Conference, representatives from the Small Business Administration presented their resources to small businesses and their advocacy efforts on behalf of the HME industry. The SBA’s Yolanda Swift, deputy ombudsman; Becky Greenwald, regional advocate; and Jayne Armstrong, district director, hosted a panel discussion showcasing the many resources that the SBA has to offer. Programs included various loan programs, contracting assistance, advocacy efforts and more. Swift went into detail about the numerous efforts of the SBA to support independent medical equipment companies facing challenges from decreasing Medicare reimbursement rates.

Cindy Ciardo of Knueppels Home Medical and Regina Gillespie of Best Home Medical shared their experiences on becoming involved in the grassroots efforts and encouraged others to become involved. From advocating for HME on Capitol Hill to testifying in front of the SBA, the two have helped extend the reach of the industry across many levels of government. The two explained that becoming involved is a very gratifying process and that speaking up truly makes a difference.

In the photo below, Armstrong, Swift and Greenwald (fifth, sixth and seventh from the left, respectively) are flanked by (from the left) VGM’s Greg Packer, CEO Mike Mallaro, Dennis Clark, Tom Powers, Emily Harken and Lalaina Rabary, Justin Jensen (staff assistant to Iowa congressman Rod Blum), and VGM’s John Gallagher and Collin Brecher.

Our Way of Saying Thank You

At this year’s Heartland Conference, VGM offered a special thank you to a 30-year member and to a presenter and vendors who have participated in all 15 Heartland Conferences.

At the Gala, HME Home Medical in Green Bay was recognized for its 30-year membership. On behalf of their company, Steve Huntington (second from right) and Jim Murray accepted our thanks from Scott Owen, VP of National Sales (left). During 2016, VGM has been honoring those members who have been with us since Van Miller opened his doors, and we’ll continue to do so throughout the remainder of the year. You can learn more about all 30-year members by going to

It’s been said time and again that without our vendor partners, Heartland Conference would not happen. Eight VGM participating vendors have exhibited at all 15 conferences, and we paid them a special thank you during the show. They include Abbott, EZ-ACCESS, Medela, MK battery, Permobil, Philips Respironics, The ROHO Group and Therafin. 

And, who knows more about educating HME providers than Louis Feuer? Louis presented at his fifteenth Heartland Conference with his usual dynamic flair. Prior to his presentation, Sara Laures, VGM’s VP of Special Projects, presented Louis a gift from VGM along with our heartfelt appreciation.

Rifton Garners Best Booth Award

Vendors might be tempted to pack products into exhibition space, but Rifton Equipment’s Heartland Conference 2016 exhibit displayed fewer mobility products, leaving extra room for hands-on interaction with adaptive equipment. The strategy paid off: not only did the company receive positive feedback from attendees but they also won the conference’s Best Booth award. The goal of the honor was to spark interest, bringing new items to the forefront of VGM members.

Judges assessed exhibitor booths for overall look and feel of the booth, use of imagery and signage, availability and display of product for attendees to see and test and helpfulness of the staff.

“We’re trying to make the visuals match what the product can do,” said Ryan Burke, Rifton’s sales and marketing director. “Our products are mobility products. To show them, you have to be able to move them around.”

To demonstrate Rifton Pacer Gait Trainers and other equipment on flooring other than carpet, Burke and the rest of the Rifton team installed both a hard-surface, wood-look floor and a rougher surface of artificial turf. They also brought a full-size treadmill to demonstrate the gait trainer’s use on equipment. The treadmill impressed visitors to the exhibit space, Burke said.