Employee pride propels Fairmont

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The first thing that stands out about Fairmont Home Medical, the 2009 winner of the HME Excellence Award, home medical equipment category, is its ability to remain profitable during a period of economic hardship in the industry and country overall. That Fairmont Home Medical can somehow shrug off the onslaught of revenue-consuming forces like Medicare reimbursement cuts and actually increase its earnings over the last three years is a feat many would consider worthy of a fete.

This year’s judging panel certainly did, as all cited impressive financials as the key factor behind their first place votes. From 2006 to 2008, Fairmont increased its revenues by at least $200,000 a year, from $1.4 million in 2006 to $1.9 million last year. Considering that the company is located in a sparsely populated rural region south of Morgantown, West Va., those are pretty strong totals.

But it wasn’t just the revenue growth that impressed the judges; it was the methodical way in which the numbers were presented.

“They provided a ratio analysis that gave a complete picture of how the company is performing,” one judge said. “Overall, they gave the best presentation.”

Fairmont’s prowess extends beyond dollars and cents into other areas that denote a well-run organization. An acute focus on patient satisfaction has engendered fierce loyalty from referral sources and the community at large, said general office manager Jeanette Lancaster.

“I come from a customer service background, so I am committed to pleasing people,” said Lancaster, who ran the business by herself when it first started. “It’s in my blood to be compassionate, to want everyone to have a positive experience whether I can help them or not. I do everything to make them want to come back.”

Lancaster credits a powerhouse staff for contributing mightily to the company’s bottom line and a local reputation as a quality healthcare provider. It begins with a passion for people and professional excellence, she said.

“You can’t train people to be this way - they are either born or raised with it,” Lancaster said. “We look at what we do and how we do it - not just on a daily basis, but on an hourly basis. From that we developed an organizational cost-savings plan that does not compromise on quality. That took a strong commitment from every employee.”

As a result, Fairmont staff members often wear two or three hats. For instance, a purchasing agent also does insurance verification and customer service when needed. Likewise, a customer service rep also holds fitting certifications for post-mastectomy products, diabetic shoes and compression hosiery. That rep also serves as a clinical resource as a licensed practical nurse.

“We make it a point of finding each person’s strengths and maximize it,” she said.

Mon Health started Fairmont 11 years ago to provide desperately needed medical equipment for an area that had no HME provider, said Lancaster, who started at the hospital in Morgantown in 1996. She saw the assignment to launch the business as a fantastic opportunity even though she did everything from answering phones to unloading delivery trucks. In ensuing years, it has grown into a full-service provider, employing 14 people and offering HME, respiratory, rehab, sleep medicine - even uniform sales.

Fairmont Home Medical

Headquarters: Fairmont, West Va.

Category: winner, home medical equipment

Employees: 14

Revenues: approximately $2 million

Professional affiliations: VGM, MED Group, AAHomecare, West Virginia Medical Equipment Suppliers Association, American Association for Respiratory Care

Community outreach: Health and wellness fairs, Muscular Dystrophy Association, United Way