New online provider says choice benefits patients

Thursday, August 31, 2006

CANTON, Ga. - With a name like Ms.CPAP and More, Missy Smith is ready to meet the big guys head-on in cyberspace.
"We have two women running the company," said Smith, who, along with Sarah Walsh, launched the online CPAP and supplies provider in early 2006.
The site carries CPAP and BiPAP machines, parts and supplies. Smith said supplies make up about 80% of sales right now, a fact she attributes to heavy competition in the online CPAP market.
"They are able to provide CPAP at a lot lower (rate) than we can," said Smith of cyberspace competitors. "That's fine. If we sell supplies, we sell supplies."
While the machines at Ms.CPAP may not be the least expensive, customers can still expect lower prices than in a bricks-and-mortar HME, Smith said. Ms.CPAP keeps overhead low by operating on a cash basis. Ms.CPAP offers same-day shipping on most items and exchanges items for customers.
Smith said the typical online customer is someone already familiar with CPAP, often looking for a second machine or other items not covered by insurance.
"I've actually sent people away if I knew their insurance would cover it," said Smith. "People think I'm crazy, but I feel like, in the end, it's going to come back in a positive way."
With seven years of homecare experience, Smith is quick to advocate one-on-one care with licensed respiratory therapists but provides customers with answers when appropriate.
"If it's a simple question, I am careful and give my opinion," said Smith. "I always tell them they really need to ask their doctor or local RT to make sure."
Smith supports industry calls for greater regulation of online suppliers but says patients benefit by having lower-cost options. Homecare companies and online companies need to work together, she said.
"If a patient is struggling financially, their health suffers and they will just do without," said Smith. "If we are all patient advocates, then I see a place for us to work together."