Missouri provider banks on reputation with HME expansion

Monday, July 31, 2006

BOLIVAR, Mo. - With 30 years of pharmacy experience under its belt, Stephens Pharmacy and Homecare hopes its reputation for patient care translates into HME success.
In May, Stephens moved into a new building, tripling the company's footprint to 15,000 square feet and bolstering its HME offerings. The new building houses the pharmacy, HME division, warehouse and offices. With the local population itself projected to triple in the next decade, the timing seemed right, said Brady Vestal, manager.
"We offer convenience that nobody in our area is able to offer," said Vestal, who began providing nebulizers for neb-med patients last winter and saw the potential in one-stop shopping. "We wanted to be able to keep customers in Bolivar, or (attract customers) from out of town."
Stephens carries wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches and diabetes supplies, with a focus on oxygen, CPAP and nebulizers. With 80% of Stephens' business derived from Medicare and Medicaid, diversifying makes it easier to continue caring for neb-med patients in the wake of reimbursement cuts.
"It's a market we no longer look at to make much money," said Vestal. "It's kind of a dog but there's still a demand and we're doing the best we can. We're providing those meds because the patient is getting other medication and equipment."
The company has seen an increase in respiratory patients since it began selling nebulizers. Eventually, those patients may transition into oxygen patients for its fledgling oxygen business, which has 10 patients. Vestal said he would like HME to become 25% of the mix within five years.