Don't leave money on the table

Friday, August 31, 2007

Rehab providers like Mark Farmer increasingly look to what's called secondary sales to soften the blow of last year's reimbursement cuts for power mobility devices. Farmer, president of Southwest Mobility in Mesa, Ariz., decided recently to expand his line of lifts to include items like turney seats, a seat that lifts users out of their wheelchairs and into the passenger seats of vehicles.
Farmer also has added lifts by different manufacturers.
"We're trying to have an option for everyone's wallet," he said. "I would say at least half of our customers are purchasing some type of lift; the other half are in assisted living centers."
In November, CMS cut reimbursement for PMDs by 27% on average. As a result, rehab providers have redoubled efforts to boost cash sales of related items: anything from baskets to threshold ramps to lifts. Lifts can bring in up to $4,000.
Ken Emerick believes rehab providers should be selling a lift for nearly ever power wheelchair they sell.
"The only thing rehab providers can do right now is hedge their bets and continue growing their businesses," said Emerick, owner of Innovative Mobility Concepts, a company that sells marketing tools. "A lot of them are leaving money on the table."
While rehab providers may be adding related items like lifts to their product mixes in greater numbers, not enough of them take full advantage of secondary sales, Emerick said.
"You have to make it a process," he said. "A lot of it is gathering information. If you go into a customer's home to deliver a power chair, you may notice they have a car that can accommodate a certain lift."
Jan Soderquist believes rehab providers would better serve their customers if they "looked at the whole picture."
"We get so distracted by the chair that it takes a really good rehab provider to pay attention (to secondary sales)," said Soderquist, president of Rehab Equipment Associates in Manchester, N.H. "We're now maturing, out of necessity, to ask, 'What else does the customer need?'"
For nearly each PMD sale, Farmer has trained his employees to ask, "How are you going to transport that?"
"We're pretty good at that," Farmer said.