NEMED: It's time to drop 'dealer'

Monday, September 24, 2012

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. – What’s in a name? More than you think, says the New England Medical Equipment Dealers Association.

“We want to get the word ‘dealers’ removed,” said Karyn Estrella, executive director of NEMED. “The idea has come from members, and also some legislators at the state house have told us that we really should consider it. It doesn’t represent who we are.”

The association plans to unveil its new name in May 2013, as part of its silver anniversary celebration.

It hasn’t helped that the infamous “Wheeler Dealer” scandal that rocked Houston in 2003 painted the industry as rife with fraud and abuse.

“In all honesty, ever since ‘Wheeler Dealer,’ every time I say our name, it’s a little cringe,” said Estrella.

Of the more than 30 industry associations, NEMED appears to be the only one with “dealer” in its name. Most use either “supplier” or “services,” neither of which carries the negative connotations of “dealer.”

“Dealer sounds like a car dealership, and what we do is so much more than a commodity transaction,” said John Shirvinsky, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Suppliers. “Then you have the debate over supplier vs. provider, but even though our folks tend to refer to themselves as providers, there’s no interest in changing our name to eliminate the word ‘supplier.’”

The word “dealer” does have some negative connotations, agrees Liz Moran, but she thinks that the industry has made great strides in recent years to combat them. Still, as long as there are “bad apples” that image won’t ever go away completely.

“If you don’t change what’s wrong, changing a name isn’t going to fix it,” said Moran, executive director of the Medical Equipment Suppliers Association.

Once NEMED selects a new name, it will develop a new logo, and also plans to revamp its website to make it more user-friendly.