Pontzius takes up VGM's Nationwide

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

WATERLOO, Iowa - Given that independent respiratory providers are under heavy fire from Medicare, it makes sense that the VGM Group has chosen battle-tested industry veteran Tom Pontzius to lead the retaliation.
A 20-year stalwart of the oxygen field, Pontzius takes over the presidency of VGM's Nationwide Respiratory, a group formed last fall to assist respiratory providers with marketing and business development. He replaces Jim Schaefer at the group's helm. Harold Davis will continue to work as a consultant to the group.
It is Pontzius's mission to invigorate the organization by infusing it with the marketing expertise he acquired from years as a healthcare distributor and manufacturer sales rep.
"The backbone of our Nationwide Respiratory effort is marketing and that is Tom's specialty," said VGM president Jim Walsh. "He knows products and more importantly knows that manufacturers and dealers need to be successful in reaching out to the public and building sales volume."
Pontzius, who most recently served as a regional sales manager for Puritan Bennett, joined Nationwide in March and immediately went to work devising new programs for the membership, which numbers approximately 100. Among the initiatives he has developed so far are direct-to-consumer marketing, customized Web site development, COPD and oxygen education and referrals through VGM's Homelink and Freedom Link networks. Nationwide members also have access to more than a dozen television commercials for use in their service areas.
To build recognition with key referral sources, Nationwide is exhibiting at various clinical shows, such as the American Association for Respiratory Care, the Associated Professional Sleep Societies and the American Thoracic Society.
"Our goal is to build relationships with referral sources on a regional basis," Pontzius said. "We share all leads we get at the shows with our members in their specific marketplaces."
Nationwide recently opened up its membership to sleep labs and sleep disorder centers and the group is supporting them through direct-to-consumer advertising on obstructive sleep apnea awareness as well as through services like off-hour phone answering, procedural instruction and OSA education.
"We also have a set-up program for providers who want to partner with physicians on sleep lab ventures," Pontzius said. "Our programs will help them as much or as little as they need."
Giving clinicians a centralized one-call option not only makes the referral process easier, it also puts small providers on equal footing with their corporate counterparts, he said.
"We are differentiating Nationwide members in the marketplace, giving them the opportunity to compete at a higher level," Pontzius said. "We're helping them compete with the nationals."