Hammer Medical nails Hispanic niche

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

DES MOINES, Iowa - Hammer Medical Supply has found a way to set itself apart by providing bilingual customer service to Spanish-speaking clients.
"We just recognize that it is a growing population," said Terry Flatt, vice president and co-owner. "People were actually imported to work in factories back 15 years ago or so, so that community has really grown."
Many times, customers who don't speak English will bring in a child or someone else to act as translator. But it's crucial for any client to understand how to use equipment and take medications safely. At Hammer, two full-time employees provide translation services in addition to other duties. The company has translated all of its brochures, customer checklists and other literature into Spanish and a dedicated Spanish voice-mail system.
Hammer started as a pharmacy in 1872 and became a full-line DME in 1975. The store has 75 employees working in six locations in central Iowa. Medicare and Medicaid make up 80% of their business. They specialize in mobility, oxygen and sleep equipment and carry a full range of medical and personal care supplies.
"Being a rural state, I think that's very important," said Flatt. "I don't think we'd survive if we just did oxygen for example."
Many of Hammer's Hispanic clients are referred by LaClinica, a low-income, community clinic, and Proteus, which provides housing and medical services to migrant workers. "We've negotiated some discount fees for them," said Flatt.