Don't live in the 'doom and gloom'

Monday, December 1, 2014

It’s amazing to look at our industry and all that has occurred over the past several years. 

Our industry has demonstrated an enormous degree of resiliency in the face of continuing uncertainty. Many providers are not only surviving but also thriving in this changing business climate. Private equity firms are seemingly increasing their interest in our sector. Although it is easy to live in the “doom and gloom” of what has happened, companies are being rejuvenated and have figured out how to prosper during these challenging times. In my experience, successful companies pay special attention to several key areas listed below.

Make competitive bidding work for you

Many companies that accepted Medicare contracts are reporting they are doing more business than ever, but at lower margins. Their challenge has become how to do more with less. These providers have “tightened their belts”; examined current and past practices; stopped offering services that are not covered by reimbursement; and, most importantly, started servicing the patient’s total healthcare needs, rather than just filling a script (up-caring). This has resulted in establishing deeper connections with their patients and creating customers for life.

Participate in diversified payer sources

For many years, the main payer in our space has been Medicare. With the changes that have occurred, third-party payer sources have become extremely important when operating a successful business. These payers have traditionally opened their panels for national companies, but we have found that as a network, we can add these contracts and allow members access to many of these payers at rates that are very attractive. There are millions of lives covered under these payers and the companies marketing to this patient base are growing their businesses and creating long-term customers often with much better margins than in the traditional Medicare market.

Focus on cash and retail sales

As previously mentioned, focusing on serving the patient’s collective needs and suggesting ancillary products that will help them live safely and independently in their own homes provides several benefits to providers and their patients. By providing cash and retail sales training to your entire staff, especially delivery technicians and retail sales consultants, you can help address all of your patients’ needs. As baby boomers (now being called “The Richest Generation” and willing to pay cash for what they need) begin to enter the DME space, cash sales have become a major influence to the bottom line of companies.

Promote strong internal program development 

Many HME businesses have developed unique programs to help address their patients’ needs. These include chronic heart failure (CHF) programs aimed at reducing readmissions, oxygen and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) programs, sleep and re-supply programs, rehab programs, and retail sales programs. Developing programs like these can help streamline existing practices and generate excitement among your employees, making your entire staff into enthusiastic “marketers” for the company. While this past decade has been very challenging for providers, I believe the future is increasingly bright for companies that are looking “outside of the box” and open to change. With the number of boomers who are entering the DME space every day and people living longer with a strong desire to live independently in their own homes, you have an opportunity to fulfill your obligation as a healthcare provider and operate a strong, thriving business for many years to come.

Todd Blockinger is senior director of sales for The MED Group. Reach him at or (806) 407-6018.