No more working for the man

Thursday, March 31, 2005

BILOXI, Miss. — With all the talk about transfilling concentrators, going paperless and using other new technology to reduce operational costs, it seems almost quaint to hear a company downplay these innovations and stake its future on simply providing better service.
But that is Express Medical’s game plan, and the owners are not alone in feeling it may be a good one.
“Companies need to get on their feet first and then innovate,” said HME consultant Roberta Domos. “I don’t recommend disease state management to my start ups. I think they need to work on the basics: building referrals and good marketing, demonstrating they have good patient education programs and fast efficient service and timely deliveries. After establishing a reputation, then they can get into innovations.”
Express Medical set up shop last summer and in January doubled the size of its office space from 800 to 1,600 square feet. Of the three partners, one is a respiratory therapist, another worked in community relations for a home health agency and the third worked as a sales rep for another HME. The company provides wheelchairs, hospital beds, home oxygen, CPAPs, scooters, walkers, lift chairs and other items.
Recent Medicare reimbursement cuts, gave the three partner’s pause before they went out on their own, but it didn’t shake their confidence.
“Competitive bidding was a concern, but we had good contacts and felt like we would be successful,” said co-owner Josh Rimes.
Indeed, good contacts are key to referrals.
Likewise, providers who adopt a traditional model of operating a medical equipment business have a better chance of succeeding in Mississippi and other rural markets, said HME consultant Wallace Weeks.
“They will suffer some effects of the MMA, but not all of them will experience competitive bidding,” Weeks said. “Those of us who know the industry believe that by 2010 inherent reasonableness will cause everyone to be on the same reimbursement page. But they have five years left before that happens.”
Express Medical currently outsources its billing.
“We are small, and real thorough with patients, and we are not overloaded like I think some companies are down here,” said co-owner Chris Collier. “We do what we say we are going to do, and I think people appreciate that.”