Lesson from Southwest

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

ELYRIA, Ohio – Lou Slangen has been a fixture at Invacare for more than 25 years. So it’s no surprise that Invacare, under pressure from the Food and Drug Administration and competitive bidding, recently asked him to step in and play a greater role in its North America/HME division. Here’s what Slangen, executive vice president of marketing and chief product officer, had to say about how he plans to ensure the success of Invacare by ensuring the success of its provider customers.

HME News: What are your plans?

Lou Slangen: The industry as a whole is going through tremendous changes. The strategy that we have set out is that the providers need us and we need the providers. It has to be a win-win for the both of us. What we need to do is very much connected to the behaviors of providers.

HME: What should providers be doing?

Slangen: One thing that we haven’t done, aren’t going to do and won’t do is take short cuts in our products and, likewise, the providers that have been successful in Round 1 stayed with their model of providing better quality products and services. We use the analogy of Southwest Airlines. How is it possible that a small airline has been successful against the giants? It’s not how they bought, but what they bought. They bought 737s from Boeing.

HME: So Southwest bought a quality product and only one product.

Slangen: If providers can use fleet management, like Southwest, they can develop an optimal model. The way to do that is to use interchangeability to its greatest extent. Let’s take, as an example, a provider that has put a patient on portable oxygen and a stationary concentrator for continuous flow at night. Now let’s say the provider needs the portable for another patient or it breaks down. Guess what? The provider just grabs a HomeFill and puts that out and the transfilling device is compatible with the concentrator and the patient remains ambulatory. If you have a different concentrator, you have to change out the whole system. When you work in fleet management, it’s an optimal use of your capital.

HME: What are other benefits of using a fleet management model?

Slangen: All the related costs of inventory, repairs, training—of everything—just exponentially decreases.