Wednesday, December 31, 2003

SALISBURY, N.C. - Rowan Medical intentionally avoided the Internet band wagon of the late 1990s, but these days the provider’s singing a different tune.

Rowan debuted in November as a way to boost its cash sales and generate business in other parts of the state. The provider also is exploring the possibility of partnering with, an e-commerce site that, among other things, acts as a sort of group purchasing organization for HMEs and directs consumers to member equipment dealers.

While Rowan isn’t hosting its Web site to offset impending reimbursement cuts, look for Web sites and other more advanced technology to play a key and necessary role in helping providers reduce costs, say industry watchers.

“We’ve already started a good many technology initiatives, things like high-speed scanners and going paperless, that hopefully will drive some better efficiencies,” said Don White, president of Associated Healthcare Systems in Amherst, N.Y.

According to last month’s HME News Poll, a scant 12% of the 54 respondents said they had invested in sophisticated technology (sleep, oxygen, billing, record keeping, delivery, inventory) as a way to reduce their overall costs. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they would make such an investment in the next year, and 25% said they would do so over the next five years. (See story on page XX.)

“As margins continue to decrease, HME will have to become more technically sophisticated to address those margins,” said Jeff Frankel, president/CEO of Trac Medical, which offers an electronic CMN solution. “If you can eliminate a manual process in your business and convert it to an Internet or electronic process, you will have a more effective process.”

Rowan Medical waited to develop a Web site until the company had the staff time and resources to devote to it. The site includes about 300 products, bath safety items and other basic equipment that don’t require fitting or a prescription, said Phil Whitesell, director of corporate communications for Rowan Regional Medical Center, the provider’s parent company.