Invacare touts service offerings

Sunday, August 17, 2008

ELYRIA, Ohio - Invacare, a company best known for products, will continue to make services more of a priority through iPartner Solutions, officials said at a media event held last week at its headquarters here.

Invacare plans to expand the iPartner Solutions portfolio to include billing and collection services, hopefully in the fourth quarter, officials said. iPartner Solutions already offers providers two "buckets" of services: business management and operations, and rehab repairs.

"We want to make sure that Invacare is known for more than just its products," said Chris Yessayan, vice president and general manager, Service Business Group.

Invacare launched iPartner Solutions earlier this year. Company officials believe that, by outsourcing services like repairs to iPartner Solutions, providers can focus on their core competencies and, most importantly, cut costs.

Cutting costs is something providers must do if they want to survive reimbursement pressures, including the return of national competitive bidding in 18 to 24 months, officials said.

"We want providers to survive," Yessayan said. "So we're asking them, 'How can we help you take cost out of your operations?'"

To help determine what other services providers could use, iPartner Solutions has been holding "Service Summits" across the country. It has held three summits so far, and it plans to hold six more before the end of the year.

Even though Invacare will be a no-show, iPartner Solutions also plans to get in front of providers at Medtrade in October.

"(iPartner Solutions) is still in the early stages, but we're excited for what this means for Invacare--and the market," said Carl Will, group vice president, HME.

Also heard at the event:

* Acquisitions: Invacare expects to be back on the acquisition trail next year. Possible targets: sleep and wound care companies, as well as Asian companies.

* Lobbying: Invacare plans to focus on national competitive bidding (lobbying for alternate reform or working with CMS to draft the best plan possible); fraud and abuse; a national public relations campaign headed up by AAHomecare; and oxygen payment reform. On fraud and abuse, CEO Mal Mixon said, "Without insulting CMS, we've got to get them to stop giving out provider numbers so easily. We have to work with them to make (the process) more business like."

* Election: Mixon plans to meet with representatives from Barack Obama's and John McCain's camps in the months leading up to the election. Mixon, a self-proclaimed "big Bush supporter," said he won't make the same mistake this year that he made four years ago. That is, supporting a presidential candidate without knowing exactly his stance on HME. Bush was a supporter of national competitive bidding and vetoed the bill that would delay the program, only to have the House of Representatives and Senate override him. "Now that the smoke has cleared on competitive bidding, we need to find out (about the candidates)," Mixon said. "People ask me who I'm going to support, and I can't answer that question right now."