Benchmark Mobility shifts gears

Monday, May 17, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - Provider Ron Reed is having an identity crisis, but don't worry, it isn't a bad thing. In the past six months, Reed, the owner and CEO of Benchmark Mobility, has "radically" shifted his company from being a power wheelchair provider to being an HME jack of all trades, mostly by partnering with referral sources, physicians, therapists, case managers, visiting nurses, social workers, fire fighters–you name it. "It's all about understanding you can't just sell power chairs and that's all, and expect to survive with all the market forces we have going against us," he said. Here's what Reed had to say about his refusal to run in place.

HME News: Describe your new business model.

Ron Reed: We're partnering with other healthcare providers to try and work as a team to provide the best quality equipment and services available. It's all about re-branding. We're not just distributing products; we're actually a resource for other healthcare providers.

HME: Is part of the new business model broadening your product mix to be able to serve these different groups?

Reed: We've added new products: home monitoring, electric door openers, orthotics. An orthopedic hospital down the road called me and said, "Hey, can you do knee and back braces for me?" I don't do a whole lot of them, but guess who signed up for a continuing education course? Me. I think there's a thirst out there if you just go out and get it.

HME: Give me other examples of how your partnerships with these healthcare providers work.

Reed: I did an environmental assessment for an Alzheimer's patient that was referred to me by a case management organization. We started off with one product and after sitting with the family and talking about the patient's needs and how the disease is going to progress, it turned into six products. We do tune-up days in high-rise apartments. We recently met with some fire fighters who were in town for a convention. Did you know one-third of the phone calls they receive are because a person has fallen and they can't get up? Think about how many dollars are wasted calling 911 to get someone up off the floor. If only they had had a grab bar or something to prevent them from falling in the first place.

HME: Doing so many things for so many different people–do you ever feel like a chicken with your head cut off?

Reed: That's where the value is. By offering so many different services to such a wide variety of people, it continually allows you to keep another iron hot. And there's fun in that, because every day, something new is going on. It's all about cross-marketing. Even if it's not something you necessarily do for a living, that doesn't mean you can't branch out and offer solutions. I'm not fired up about selling grab bars all day, but the grab bar leads to the realization that maybe there are other services we can provide down the road.

HME: Tell me more about why you've made such a big change to your business model.

Reed: Because I want my business to be around in 10 years. It's what competitive bidding has made me do. I know there are providers out there who are thinking, "Oh, it will go away," or "Oh, it's a bump in the road." It's here to stay. We're embracing the changes. We're changing with the changes. It doesn't have to be a bad thing. Look at it this way: Do you really think there's going to be less DME furnished this year than last year? No. Somebody's going to get that business. The question is: How do you get it? That's how we're looking at it: We're looking at it as an opportunity to go get something.