‘Show me the money’

Monday, June 30, 2008

Reimbursement rates, billing codes, profit margins, cost-effective solutions-today, more than ever, HME providers want expertise on the tips of the tongues of their sales reps.

Once, it was all about product-brochures, demos, samples and freebies. Today, with fuel costs soaring and reimbursement dwindling, the rep who packs pointers on optimizing profit margin is the welcome rep in HME shops across the country.

“It is important for reps to have a better understanding of reimbursement, as well as product knowledge,” said Pete Mailloux, president of PM Medical Products Ltd. “A $700 product with a $1,100 reimbursement may not make sense when there is a $500 product.”

While slightly more than half of the 196 poll respondents believe HME reps are more helpful and knowledgeable than they were five years ago, nearly two out of three respondents say their relationships with these reps have changed.

“The one-on-one relationship is practically gone,” said Ernie Gelista, president of DME Depot.

If there was an over-riding constant to last month’s comments, it was this: “We never see them.”

“I very seldom see any of my reps,” said one supplier. “I’m not sure if it’s due to the price of gas or what. I have not seen my (major manufacturer) rep in four to five months. In today’s environment, you still have to earn my business.”

Other providers insist there’s an explanation for the depth of anybody’s relationship with their rep.

“A provider’s relationship with any particular manufacturer and his rep, with few exceptions, is directly proportional to the amount of business you give them,” said Stewart Pace, senior vice president at Med-South.

The ideal rep still fulfills typical HME provider demands, but as providers bump into new problems, they’re hoping to cultivate relationships that do more than simply facilitate the exchange of product.

“My ideal rep keeps me informed of what they are seeing in our territory,” said Patrice Jerke, a regional clinical manager at Avera Home Medical Equipment.