Iowa equipment provider feels at home on the range

Sunday, February 29, 2004

HARTLEY, Iowa - Although headquartered in a town of just 1,700 people, Med-Equip, a locally owned DME and pharmacy, keeps growing and growing and making the most of its rural, agricultural-based home.

Two doctors and a pharmacist founded Med-Equip in 1969, and by 1983 the single drugstore had expanded to include home medical equipment and supplies. Currently, Med-Equip boasts six all-service HME locations and four retail pharmacies across Iowa and into South Dakota.

“In the new store in Spirit Lake, we actually put a pharmacy right into the medical equipment store and we structured it around compounding medications,” said Mark Wegelin, Med-Equip’s director of operations.

The reasons behind the company’s burgeoning success lay in its ability to find and retain customers. Although Wegelin points to Med-Equip’s employees and outstanding local service, the company also has made some strategic moves to keep its competition in check.

Notably, Med-Equip renamed its pharmacies at the start of 2004. Previously called HealthMarts, the pharmacies now fall under the Med-Equip name - a change that has proven to benefit the company’s marketing strategies and customer recognition.

“Because we provide respiratory in the HME business, we do the compounding in our pharmacy, so there is a correlation between the two trying to drive them together,” said Wegelin.

Growing competition from the “big boys,” like Apria Healthcare, spurred Med-Equip’s other recent operations change - the addition of liquid oxygen services. Wegelin said increased advertising of the new portable system meant a lot of clients were asking to be switched over.

“We feel we were forced into [providing liquid oxygen],” said Wegelin. “We lost customers because we didn’t have it, and we also felt we were not getting the referrals from our sources because people were talking about this portability.”

In continuing its growth, Med-Equip is readying to open another HME location in Spencer, Iowa, 18 miles from its Hartley headquarters.