Pharmacy, HME combo makes financial sense

Sunday, April 30, 2006

CALIENTE, Nev. - Cards and dollar toys just don't cut it anymore for Meadow Valley Pharmacy, but DME is another story, said Joshua Nay, DME manager.
The independent pharmacy, serving a large, rural area, remodeled its showroom in late March and now devotes about 20% of its 2,700 square feet to DME like power mobility, crutches, canes, walkers and some incontinence and diabetic supplies.
"Dollar per square foot, (DME) makes so much more money than anything you can carry in the pharmacy," said Nay. "It's something we thought we could cover for people."
With chain pharmacies and big-box retailers crowding independents out of some product lines, HME is a natural fit for mom-and-pops seeking new revenue sources.
"If you're going to dispense the albuterol, you might as well dispense the nebulizer," said Tom Ransom, director of Rochester, N.Y.-based Rochester Drug Cooperative's HME division.
That's what Nay figured. "They're coming in for (medication) anyway," he said. "It goes hand in hand."
Pharmacies can leverage existing relationships with doctors and patients to market new products.
"The beauty of pharmacy is that they see the patient every month," said Avi Weiss, director of homecare for Springfield, Ill.-based H.D. Smith. "They see what the patient is buying for medication and can advise them on (HME)."
That attention to customer service is what separates the independent pharmacy from the big guys, said Weiss.
"You have to have somebody who can help the patients," said Weiss. "That's the key. It can be a clerk if the clerk is knowledgeable."
At Meadow Valley, that would be Nay, who does everything from ordering to delivery and set up.
"I like working with people," said Nay. "I enjoy the sales."
Meadow Valley accepts Medicare, Medicaid and some private insurance.
One of the biggest hurdles most pharmacies face with HME is billing, said Ransom. Nay found a company with an online billing program that works in conjunction with his pharmacy program. He supplies the information and fills out the certificate of medical necessity and they take care of the rest.
Nay admits he has his work cut out for him. "There's a lot to know," said Nay. "But I'm learning what I need on my end."