Care Medical aims to please and make money

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

TULARE, Calif. -- Care Medical will do almost anything for a customer except put up with one low-paying referral after another.
"If a hospital calls and wants me to deliver a cane 45 miles a way into the hills, and bill Medicare for it, I'm going to do that," said Care President Matt Kneeland. "But I'm not going to be shy about going back into that hospital and saying 'I'm here for every one of your patients. Please keep me in mind when you have the higher profit items, and here are what the higher profit items are.'"
If a referral source continues to send low-margin orders to Care Medical, Kneeland terminates the relationship, or, as he says, "cuts the bad business away."
"We're full service," he said, "but not stupid."
With that level of service and partnership in mind, Care opened its sixth location Aug. 1, this one in Visalia. Care opened the location even though it can be serviced adequately from its nearby office in Visalia, Calif.
"We met with the folks at the hospital many times and they said, 'We want someone here in town and the more we looked at it the more we thought it was viable," said Kneeland, a respiratory therapist by training. "The key was that it was important to them and they are our customers. If you want the business, you have to listen to what they are saying."
Kneeland formed Care Medical in 1996 in Visalia to provide support surfaces to convalescent homes. Over time, the company morphed into a full-line HME with an eye toward meeting its customers' needs, collecting its AR and building profits, Kneeland said.
The company now operates six locations in California's Central Valley. Home respiratory therapy generates 50+% of its business. It's biggest payer, Medicare, kicks in 50%.
"We're a one stop shop for our customers so they can call one place and get all of their equipment," Kneeland said.
Some of his competitors, however, shun low-margin items and cherry pick more lucrative respiratory patients, he said.
"I've had competitors who get a full order from a hospital then call me and say, 'I need a cane and a walker and a hospital bed delivered to this patient's home,'" Kneeland said. "We'll get out there and discover that the other company has only delivered the oxygen.
When that happens he goes back to the referral source and lets him know Care had to help out with the delivery because the other HME only delivered the oxygen.
"We've been pretty effective with that," Kneeland said.