Eight decades in, business going strong

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

FAIRFIELD, Conn. - Despite challenges facing the HME industry, one small, family-owned provider has defied the odds. 

Collins Home Medical Equipment celebrated 80 years in business in November. What's the Collins family secret? 

"We continually educate ourselves on products and we don't put all of our eggs in one particular basket," said Chris Collins, general manager of Fairfield, Conn.-based Collins Home Medical Equipment. "We continue to move and continue to find businesses where we can remain profitable and remain with our heads above water. I think that's probably a simple formula but it seems to have worked."

In 1931, Tom Collins, Sr., opened a drugstore across the street from his family home in Bridgeport, Conn. Since then, the company has grown and changed with the times, adding HME and, later, selling its pharmacy business to CVS to focus solely on HME. 

The provider has faced many challenges over the years, but some of the biggest have been recently, with reduced reimbursements and increased regulatory issues, Chris Collins said.

"We've all struggled to provide the best product--one that's going to last and meet the patient's needs," he said. "Nobody wants to pay for service these days. They just want the bottom cost."

In 2005, the provider moved to a new location in neighboring Fairfield, Conn., but made sure to keep a main feature in both the old and new locations: retail space. 

"Any time we get a call from a customer, one of my primary goals is to get them to come out and look at the product firsthand," said Bryan Collins, director of sales and marketing, and Chris Collins' nephew. 

Collins Home Medical's showroom features bathroom safety products, therapeutic footwear, ambulatory aids and lift chairs. Collins Home Medical also accepts Medicare, Medicaid and all major insurances.

Bryan Collins said the provider is always working to improve and innovate, but appreciates its solid foundation. His uncle agreed.

"I think we're pretty blessed to have a great reputation for all of these years that our fathers and grandfathers provided for us," said Chris Collins.