Is manufacturer / customer separation crumbling?

Sunday, March 31, 2002

ELYRIA, Ohio - Is the once inviolate church-and-state separation between the man-ufacturer's customer and the HME provider's customer crumbling? Some think so.

If Invacare Supply Group began selling medical supplies - ostomy, urology, incontinence, wound care - direct to consumers, it wouldn't bother Alan Landauer, president of Landauer Metropolitan Care in Harrison, N.Y.

"There are a lot of other people doing it, so why hold Invacare to a different standard," said Landauer. "I'm not a great Invacare supporter, but at least they're telling you up front what they're thinking. There are other groups out there hiding it."

Darryl Coplan, general manager at Keene Medical Products in Keene, N.H, disagrees: "If it's ostomy now, it's going to be walkers and wheelchairs next month. Where do you draw the line?"

Landauer draws it at supplies. He eliminated his $750,000 ostomy business in January and may cut his supplies business cumulatively by one-half this year. Coplan also considered exiting the supplies business; instead, Keene signed up with Invacare's Patient Home Delivery Plus program.

More than a third of Invacare's supplies business is shipped via its drop-ship program. Letting Invacare handle the pick, pack and delivery of supplies has made the supplies business tenable for the last three months, said Coplan, and lets Keene keep a foot in the door.

Medline has been running a similar drop-ship program called Patient Home-Direct since 1996.

"Medicare has developed 20 new codes for ostomy, so maybe things are going to run around in supplies," said Coplan. "Those of us who hung on will be glad we did." HME