Byline: Rebecca Grilliot
His title may be vice president of marketing for the Americas at San Diego-based ResMed, but Ron F. Richard is also a tireless advocate for home care. With a personal aim of improving the lives of respiratory and sleep patients, Richard uses his background as a respiratory therapist, EMT and provider to lend perspective to his work. Over the course of his career, he has played an instrumental role in the development of several breakthrough sleep and respiratory products, and continues to work at the national level to improve coding for home sleep and ventilation products.
Richard also works on behalf of a number of philanthropic efforts, and helped to create funding for a program called Vent Camp for Kids, which supports special summer camps for ventilator-dependent children. He also developed one of the country’s first home ventilator support programs to aid hospital discharge of patients into the home care setting.
Richard “is a patient advocate through and through,” says Miriam Lieber, one of seven judges for HomeCare’s 2004 HomeCaring Awards, presented at Medtrade. Recently, HomeCare talked to Richard about his career and involvement with the industry.
HC: How did you start out in health care?
Richard: In 1973, I started in a hospital kitchen making cinnamon toast and scrambled eggs in the morning. I moved from there to respiratory care … and then I went into selling medical equipment.
HC: How did you get involved in product development?
Richard: When I worked in the hospital, the first thing I ever invented was a communication board for patients who were unable to communicate effectively with staff in the ICU. After leaving the hospital, I had a number of other subsequent inventions. I’ve always loved patients and trying to focus on making products and services to help benefit them and improve overall quality of life.
HC: What is the most memorable moment of your career?
Richard: The first patient I took home from the hospital. He was 17 years old and was a quadriplegic. He was pretty much stuck in the hospital, but he had a desire to go home on the weekends. I was able to get him discharged to the point where he could finally stay at home full time. [It was a] joy seeing him being able to stay home with his parents and his parents being able to have him at home. Even though it was a big burden for them, they felt like it was a much better quality of life for him to live at home and be taken care of that way rather than in the hospital.
That was in 1977, and home care ventilation really had not been heard of back then … so I helped develop a program to take care of spinal cranial patients to get them out of the hospital at least temporarily or on the weekends. We would do things like have picnics just to get them outside for the day.
HC: What do you see in the future for sleep technology?
Richard: I still think there will be huge breakthroughs that will be made in sleep and respiratory care. There’s still lots of room for improvement.
I continue to have hope that the FDA and CMS and all the different agencies will finally get in synch. [This would mean] the technology, payments and the assessment of the technology and the coding would all come under one umbrella so there would be a lot more coordinated efforts between those groups. Right now, you can release new technology and it may be months or years before it’s ever coded properly, before there’s ever a code established for it. There’s no good process for manufacturers to innovate and then, in turn, [get] that innovation to patients in a timely manner.
HC: Do you have a current goal?
Richard: One of the key goals for the upcoming years is to raise overall awareness of the dangers of sleep-disordered breathing. We want to let people know that snoring is not a laughing matter but a serious thing they should take a look at and get checked out.
Chosen from nominations sent in by readers, HomeCare’s HomeCaring Awards are given in recognition of distinguished service to the home medical equipment industry. HomeCare is proud to acknowledge the talent, dedication and generous spirit of those who make the HME community a better place, and who demonstrate the caring that HME is all about.
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