CVS HealthHUBs won’t change HME market, providers say

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Friday, March 15, 2019

YARMOUTH, Maine – CVS’s plans to push further into the HME market don’t faze providers, who say they’ve seen what happens when other outside companies try to muscle in.

“I don’t see it as a lot of competition for brick-and-mortar DMEs,” said Mike Kuller, owner of Allstar Medical Supply in Walnut Creek, Calif. “It’s an interesting concept, but in terms of having an impact on us or healthcare as a whole, it’s kind of a drop in the bucket.”

In February, CVS announced it would pilot three HealthHUBs in the Houston area. The locations would devote more space to healthcare services, including screening for diabetes and sleep apnea, and expand its DME offerings to include CPAP masks and accessories.

HME providers are able to help customers with their products in a way they say the CVS’s and the Amazons of the world can’t.

“Whether someplace like CVS or Walgreens that sells products in boxes is going to take the time to help the person remains to be seen,” said Kuller. “And they have nowhere to get parts or nobody to fix it. That’s not going to change with CVS.”

For HME providers, the relationship with customers extends beyond selling products, especially when it comes to managing chronic conditions like sleep apnea. Helping the patient maintain compliance takes time and effort, say providers.

“They might succeed at quick grab, cash-and-carry items, but for long-term customer retention?” says Woody O’Neal, vice president of Pelham, Ala.-based O2 Neal Medical.“Not sure the CVS model lends itself to customer intimacy the way a successful DME operates.”

However, other providers say experienced patients might well choose to pop into CVS for a quick replacement mask or supplies.

“If you have been using the same CPAP mask for a long time you really don’t need a whole lot of interaction (when buying a new one),” said Andrew Trammell, president of Charlotte, N.C.-based Carolina’s HME. “(If the business model is) set up properly, I think CVS could absolutely be a threat.”