At Care Medical, reaching out pays off

Saturday, September 30, 2006

PORTLAND, Ore. - When the 36-year-old Care Medical brought onboard a community relations coordinator for the first time earlier this year, company officials knew the position would make a difference--but not this much.
"The morale of our sales staff has gone up tremendously," said Angelene Adler, vice president of operations. "They're so glad and grateful to have support from the corporate office. We're also seeing more referrals asking for in-services."
More requests for in-services, company officials hope, will result in more business.
As Care Medical's community relations coordinator, Heather Hooper travels to the company's nine branches in Oregon and Washington state to visit with its 25 sales representatives and their assistants. Her goal: To help develop marketing materials, identify new accounts and nurture accounts that need some TLC.
Additionally, Hooper develops in-services for referral sources. In June, she was instrumental in organizing a high-profile workshop for physicians and clinicians that featured a presentation by Dr. Robert Hoover, the former Region D medical director.
In addition to educating referrals, Hooper also helps to educate Care Medical's own 300-plus employees.
"With Medicare rules changing almost daily, our people need as much education as the outsiders do," Adler said. "We're hoping our efforts (to educate both referrals and employees) will get us cleaner paperwork."
There are numerous advantages to having a community relations-type position, said Vince Crew, founder of Reach Development Services in Naples, Fla. "Any effort that further positions the company as not only a source of products and services but also an expert in the healthcare field, is a big plus," he said.
A community relations-type position can also give an independent HME a leg up on its competitors, Crew said.
"Some larger companies are more focused on reimbursement issues and payer and product mixes, and those are critical to running successful businesses," he said. "But those companies may be lacking in their connection to the community. (Independent HMEs) need to accentuate that positive."