Mal Mixon: To succeed, providers must be efficient, innovative, agile

Sunday, August 13, 2006

ELYRIA, Ohio - Despite all the challenges the HME industry faces, Invacare CEO Mal Mixon still "gets up excited every morning" to go to work. "I still think it is a great business," Mixon told a gathering of trade journalists here last week. "If you take away government reimbursement, I can't think of a better business to be in."

To support his optimism, Mixon pointed out that the number of people over 65 is increasing at an annual clip of 2% to 3%. What's more, for the most part, seniors dislike institutional care and prefer to be cared for at home.

Despite those promising statistics, providers and manufacturers must cope with declining government reimbursement by changing the way they do business, Mixon said.

"I predict that providers will change the way they do business in ways we can't imagine today," he said. They'll have to because "today's model was set up years ago when reimbursement was robust."

But with the industry mired in uncertainty on almost every front--from oxygen to rehab--it's difficult, he acknowledged, for providers to decide where to invest.

To become more efficient and competitive in today's new business environment, according to Mixon, providers should:

-- Invest in technology that reduces home deliveries;
-- Consolidate their purchases with fewer vendors;
-- Drop ship more products;
-- Maintain a solid credit rating and operate a financially sound company;
-- Boost cash sales; and
-- Hire topnotch billing staff and pay them well.

"To deal with the new reality, people are going to have to look at doing things a little bit differently," Mixon said. "The ones who will do well are efficient companies that are agile and innovative."