ISG: Jump on cash sales or big box retailers will

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Greg Bosco realized about 18 months ago just how much help HME providers need when it comes to developing cash sales.

That’s when a good friend of his became an ostomate and kept calling with questions about her condition.

Bosco, the vice president of sales and marketing for Milford, Mass.-based Invacare Supply Group (ISG), recalls what went through his mind: “I said to myself, ‘You know what? It seems like she is not getting the answers that she needs from the DME she is going to. And it’s not because they don’t want to give her the answers—it’s because they don’t know.’”

That’s how Bosco and ISG came up with the idea for the company’s series of lifestyle booklets on incontinence, diabetes and ostomy, which it released last year. In the works: a booklet on nutrition.

“With each of these, we worked with the clinical staff of the different manufacturers so we made sure we got the right information,” Bosco said.

 In addition to discussing healthy lifestyle choices (exercise, diet, vacation tips, etc.), the easy-to-read booklets explain disease states in detail (symptoms, demographic information, managing the condition) and provide a wide selection of products to treat the conditions.

The opportunity for cash sales in these product categories—as well as bath safety, diagnostic devices and other categories—is significant. That’s because customers often have high-deductible insurance plans—which require out-of-pocket payments—or, in some cases, no insurance. For example, many manufacturers of diabetic products “feel very strongly” that 30% of that business is cash, Bosco said.

But to capture that business, providers need to recognize that it exists and pursue it, he said. That’s where the booklets can help: They can answer patient questions and “tee up additional add-on sales.”

The alternative, he said, is to ignore cash sales or embrace them half-heartedly—in which case, plan to watch that business “go to the big box retailers.”