Build a business for the best of times

Do not be afraid to make investments in new technologies and new opportunities
Monday, January 4, 2016

In “A Tale of Two Cities” Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” In the past few years, the HME industry has experienced some of the best of times and some challenging times. We have seen providers and manufacturers make some very smart moves; we have also seen them misjudge the market, leading to less than favorable results. Those companies that are enduring have figured out how to adapt and change to remain relevant in the changing environment of HME.

Change is happening in our industry and we must accept it: Competitive bidding, adjustments to DMEPOS pricing in non-CBAs, pending implementation of “bundling” for CPAP and power wheelchairs, administrative law judge appeal delays, unnecessary audits and reimbursement declines are part of business. Where there is chaos there is also opportunity.

Opportunity lies in the fact that the baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are now retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day.  There will continue to be medical needs unrelated to age: obesity, diabetes, respiratory disease, heart disease and mobility needs are all on the rise. This and continued advancements in medical technologies, pharmaceuticals and home monitoring capabilities will continue to make it easier and more palatable for one to remain at home and receive needed care.

While bureaucrats may not want to currently recognize the benefits of remaining at home, I don’t believe they can remain oblivious forever. There will have to be a fundamental shift in thought processes—considering overall healthcare cost, quality of life considerations and patient and family desires—and this “shift” will eventually lead to additional opportunities. 

So what should one do? Embrace change.

In today’s environment, providers who only set out to decrease acquisition costs or beat the opposition to capture more market share from competitors are winning a short-term victory. The long-term advantage lies with those organizations that focus on the environment as a whole and not just on the competition. It is not only by competing for market share, but by implementing change, that today’s providers can survive, achieve sustainability and thrive. When a business or industry is going through a transformation, as we are today, the fundamental challenge is to capitalize on change.

The fundamental problem with bringing about organizational change is that people want things to remain exactly the same as they always have been. As a leader, it is imperative that you recognize an organization has an aversion to change, and help employees to confront the inevitable with confidence. 

The key to dealing with change is our willingness to accept it and respond quickly to the demands placed on our environment with empathy for all those involved. It is natural to resist change, but it’s a natural process we all deal with on a daily basis. It is time for us to embrace change and build a new business for the best of times using the wisdom gained though our experiences.

Clint Geffert is president of VGM & Associates, Ltd. He came to VGM after a 14-year career with Philips Respironics, where he was most recently director of sales for national accounts.