Grow past the competition

Hospice: Do you have an edge?
Tuesday, December 18, 2012

WATERLOO, Iowa – For member groups like The VGM Group, the name of the game right now is helping their provider members grow like gangbusters.

That’s why VGM Forbin now creates online portals to help providers attract and streamline their hospice businesses. The portal allows hospice partners to do things like create an account, assign access levels to key staff, place an order and schedule pick-ups. Here’s what Matt Waller, vice president of client services at VGM Forbin, had to say why tools like these give providers a competitive advantage.

HME News: Why offer online portals for the hospice business?

Matt Waller: We know how things are going right now—providers need to find new markets. This is a way for them to see new and existing hospice partners in an enhanced way to benefit their businesses and diversity.

HME: Providers tell us that the hospice business pays less but it pays faster and more consistently. I’d imagine that any tool that increases their efficiency in this business would help to squeeze out any profit.

Waller: You hit the nail on the head. For years, hospice was maybe looked at as not having the greatest margins, but now providers are looking at every area they can. If you can take an area that has traditionally low margins and streamline it, it helps to enhance your margins.

HME: How do online portals increase efficiency?

Waller: The order system can be labor intensive for the hospice, from filling out an order form and faxing it in, to receiving products. So from the time that there’s a need for products to when they are delivered to patients—we’re trying to streamline that. If you go to a hospice business with this, you’ll have a competitive advantage.

HME: How many provider members are using the online portals right now?

Waller: We have 10 in development, with two or three of them close to launch.

HME: How time and cost intensive are the online portals?

Waller: It’s not a whole lot different than building a website—it can take about 12 weeks, depending on the customization. In terms of price, it costs anywhere from $2,000 to $30,000, again depending on the customization. But it’s usually closer to $5,000.

HME: What other tools are out there to help providers grow?

Waller: I’d say the one that has grown tremendously in the past six to eight months is social media. We now have more than 70 providers using our social media services compared to zero a year ago.

HME: What has made social media click for providers?

Waller: Those that have a social media presence are seeing quite a bit of traffic to their web sites. Those that we’re working with are now doing things in addition to what we’re doing for them. Some have gone from doing nothing, to having us do some things to taking over the reins themselves.

HME: What can providers expect from VGM in the future, in terms of tools to help them grow?

Waller: We’ll continue to do things like the hospice portal. We’ll do more custom portals for different audiences that could use this type of model.