Believe the hype: Web is powerful technology

Monday, October 31, 2005

Q. A recent story in HME News ran under the headline: "Providers slowly warming to the Web." When it comes to embracing the Web, how are providers who fail to do so losing out? Does the Internet offer meaningful opportunities to improve efficiency?

A. Use of the Internet has broad application for HME providers. Consider three avenues of obvious opportunity: promotions/advertising, communications and housing important data for easy access. HMEs have a finite amount of money available to promote their business and are pulled to spend these dollars on several different categories, including yellow pages, newspaper, television, events and collateral. Understand that yellow page look-ups have declined by 25% during the past decade; newspaper readership has been plummeting during the past three decades; and television viewership is badly splintered, making it increasingly hard to reach targets.
Conversely, Web usage has exploded over the past decade, and using the Web for health-related purposes is one of the most popular activities on the Internet. Further, the Web is a very cost-effective way to reach target audiences - both end users and payers. Consumer product companies have moved promotional budgets from other media to the Web in a big way and HMEs would be smart to follow suit. Communication is another opportunity to gain savings via the Web. E-mail is much lower cost than traditional mail or telephone communication. Further, the Web offers tools to greatly streamline the process behind recurring communications, again attacking the overall cost. Finally, the Web is great for housing data for which you need easy or remote access later. Look no further than Hurricane Katrina to understand the value of having a Web-based billing module, where billing doesn't have to stop just because you can no longer use the computer in your office. Additionally, the Internet is a great tool for keeping records that need to be accessed by people in multiple locations, such as a log of O2 tank status and locations. The Web is a powerful technology capable of transforming many aspects of the HME business, limited only by one's imagination. HMEs would be wise to hop on board.


Mike Mallaro is CFO for The VGM Group. He can be reached at or (319) 235-7100.