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The Future of IV Hydration Regulation is Now

IV hydration has virtually exploded onto the healthcare business scene in the past few years.  Fueled by patient interest in immune boosting and wellness, low cost and low clinical barriers to entry, the space is bursting with both single clinicians looking to replace working in hospitals to sophisticated and heavily capitalized business people.  And it is possibly a house of cards!

Why?  Because the business fervor in the industry is often outpacing quality and safety considerations.   We’ve seen this many times before, most recently in the addiction treatment industry, where competition filled the space driven by patient demand.  There, competitors did a poor job of defining quality (on a clinical level) and aligning with eachother to communicate with the media and state legislators.  They refused to stand together; and they got run over.  First by commercial insurers who enlisted federal law enforcement, then by broad criminal prosecution.  “Self-regulate or be regulated,” many advisers told them.   “You have to work together,” they were told.  They didn’t and the industry got crushed.   IV providers, take a lesson here!

Is this all just “wolf crying”?  Nope.  Take a look at Alabama.  There, the Board of Medical Examiners did their own study of the IV hydration therapy industry and found many providers where not clinically up to par.  They found there was no oversight or IV hydration regulation, that unqualified people were treating patients and that some products were concerning.  What did the state do?  It passed a ruling that requires a physician PA, APRN or certified nurse midwife to evaluate each patient and prescribe the right treatment and that medical grade IV fluid be used.  

Even the federal government has taken action in the space, in one case of a woman who received a vitamin bag at home and was hospitalized with multi organ failure.  The feds are entering clinics and investigating.  The Federal Trade Commission is issuing warning letters related to claims being made by clinics concerning the use of certain products.  European countries are even more vey active in regulating IV clinics.

It’s time to connect the dots here.  IV providers have to approach their business like any other healthcare service.  There must be vetted suppliers, clinical policies and procedures and clearly documented medical necessity and treatment notes.  And for there to be any stability or sustainability in the industry, providers will do especially difficult things:  first they employ sophisticated medical input and cooperate with competitors to define and maintain quality.  Second, they will form an industry voice to be a resource for media and government.   If they don’t define and maintain quality, it will be done to them…by lawmakers doing the best they can with limited (and even inaccurate) information.