Julie Bowman: Spend lavishly on technology

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Since baby boomers will be seeking out smaller, less expensive communities to live in during their retirement, my perfect company would be an independent HME that resides in one of these booming boomer enclaves. This company would have several different entry points for the sale/referral and offer a diversified product mix. It would do business from a small storefront and could be duplicated in other smaller cities with similar demographics upon achieving financial success and stability with the first operation. The duplicated stores could/would be franchised.
The product mix would be respiratory, standard HME and mail order supply products. The payer mix: Medicare, Medicaid, managed care and cash. The cash sales would primarily be for a line of products that are sold via the Internet--convenience healthcare items for the elderly and healthcare testing items, such as cholesterol checking, blood pressure monitoring, glucometers, etc. This business model meets the most common needs and wants in the areas that are important to the emerging retirement population. It works for referral based business, walk-in customers and Internet sales.
I would spend lavishly on technology to ensure automation in the areas of computerization, software development, paperless systems, communication systems, data and inventory tracking, patient compliance, patient scheduling and supply management. Technology allows a business to operate more efficiently. That, in turn, enables the owner and staff to focus more heavily on customer service.
An information system that gives immediate access to every area of the business with ease enables management to respond to business needs as they occur and creates an environment where the management can forecast business trends and respond to them quickly. Without this ability, an owner is at a great disadvantage. I would invest in technology that ties together front-end, back-end, reimbursement and accounting systems. This system would then have the flexibility to produce reports that can meet the needs of the company in the areas of financial reporting, planning, business development and goal setting.
The success of a company may well dwell in the key area of personnel. I would develop a comprehensive policy and procedure manual that is regularly updated. I would hire experienced, qualified individuals in all areas, and pay a salary that would attract the type of employee that is responsible and dedicated to performing the job for which they are hired. I would provide complete hands on training, detailed job descriptions and would then monitor the employee's performance on a regularly scheduled basis. I would use competency evaluation tools, personal observation and customer/referral source satisfaction surveys to monitor and to ensure the desired results.
A company culture that is purpose driven with communication and trust is the desired goal. This can be achieved with regular meetings with the staff and profit-sharing programs. The meetings include day-to-day business activities, accomplishments of the company, discussion of areas needing improvement, short-term and long-range business objectives. Input from each area of the business and all employees is of great value.


Julie Bowman
Age: 58 Company/position: HME Solutions, founder and president Location: Memphis, Tenn. Background: Respiratory therapist for 23 years, assessor for Accreditation Commission for Healthcare, author, former president of Colorado Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers, former board member of NAMES (now AAHomecare)