NewsPoll: What’s the value of a local presence?

Friday, July 27, 2012

YARMOUTH, Maine – Eighty-seven percent of providers who responded to a recent HME NewsPoll reported that competitive bidding has de-emphasized the importance of having a local presence.

That's bad news for patients and referral sources, who, an overwhelming majority of providers say, value a local presence.

"Patients want to have someone in their community who cares," says John Kamsickas, an ATP at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Home Health Depot.

Lincare’s CEO announced recently that the company plans to reduce its number of locations by “100 or so” because, under competitive bidding, “you don’t need to be as local as in the past.”

That may be true, but providers who responded to the poll say they’re standing their ground in their communities and they’re hoping, in the end, that will put them on top. They say patients and referral sources prefer equipment that’s delivered within hours of receiving an order and other benefits of working with a provider that has a local presence.

"We work very hard not to have a wheelchair overnight for repair," says John Gurrieri, president of Staten Island, N.Y.-based Heights Home Health Care. "Most are picked up or dropped off and repaired the same day—that's why patients need a company with a presence in the community and that's why patients use us." 

Another benefit of working with a provider with a local presence: the ability to build strong relationships, providers say.

"Referral sources value service to their patients above all else, and part of that (comes from) building relationships with providers and knowing they are close and ready to help," says Patrick Lippa, owner of Le Roy, N.Y.-based Durable Medical Equipment and Supplies.

Still, some providers pointed out that "local" doesn't necessarily mean "good.”

"While most patients are serviced by local providers, it doesn't mean they are serviced by good providers," said one respondent. "The best provider should get the referral, not the closest one."