Poll: Rural HMEs outscore suburbanites

Monday, January 31, 2005

YARMOUTH, Maine – When it comes to maximizing the number of oxygen patients per service technician, rural HME providers serve a higher number than their counterparts in the suburbs, a recent HME News Poll found.

As oxygen margins continue to erode with no end in sight, respiratory providers are searching for innovative ways to recover lost revenues. Achieving the highest patient-per-service tech ratio is considered to be a potential solution and is being closely tracked by the provider community. Based on the population densities of urban, suburban and rural areas, it seems natural that the ratios would follow in descending order.

Apparently it doesn’t work that way. The January HME NewsPoll survey of 80 companies, representing more than 59,000 oxygen patients, yielded some logic-defying results. While it’s no surprise that urban providers had the highest ratio at 131 patients per service tech, it’s an eye-opener to see that rural companies came in next with 87 patients per service tech, with the suburbs bringing up the rear at 64 patients per service tech.

Upon closer inspection, however, the results start to make sense. Though more populated than small towns, traffic-congested suburbs can make deliveries an arduous chore, said Ric Wren, president of Wren Care in Middletown, Ohio.

“We’re located between Dayton and Cincinnati, so our territory includes a mix of all three areas,” said Wren, whose company has 10 sites across Ohio. “Traffic is a big reason for the discrepancy. Getting around the Cincinnati metropolitan area is difficult. You can go three times as far in the country in the same amount of time.”

Another reason might be that rural companies don’t typically use liquid oxygen, which requires more visits, Wren speculated. The advent of concentrators and transfilling systems is allowing providers to make fewer trips and build their patient-per-service tech ratio.