The problem: 'Love 'em and leave 'em' marketers

Friday, February 29, 2008

In difficult times it is human nature to look for entities to blame. We tend to want black-and-white answers--but, of course, the real world comes in many shades of gray.
I've taken a long, hard look at our manufacturer partners--Invacare, Pride Mobility and Sunrise Medical--who provide both complex rehab PMDs and standard PMDs. They are neither all good nor all bad. What they all have in common, though, is the driving need to generate sales and profits. Where they differ is how they choose to manage their product mixes.
The Bad
Two of the three companies sell standard PMDs to mass marketer/TV advertisers and are seen by many as enablers of a very bad service delivery model.
Two of the three companies drop ship complex rehab PMDs for Internet-based DME suppliers, which is contrary to our industry's and profession's best practice standards and those published by CMS, as well.
The Good
Without a doubt, across the board, Invacare, Pride and Sunrise, along with our partners at Permobil, have been active, long-term supporters of all complex rehab legislative and regulatory initiatives. They have spent tens of thousands of dollars to further our cause, which of course is their cause, too. They have allowed some of the most talented individuals in our industry--Darren Jernigan from Permobil; Rita Hostak from Sunrise; Cara Bachenheimer from Invacare; and Wayne Grau and Seth Johnson from Pride--to focus a substantial portion of their time on the complex rehab regulatory and legislative agenda. We usually judge people by their successes, but our limited success in this arena is not from lack of effort on the part of these good people.
The Ugly
I suggest that the real villains in our current situation are not the PMD manufacturers, though they will certainly be an important part of the solution. The bad guys are the mass marketers/TV advertisers and the Internet sellers. The bad guys are the regulatory agencies that allow these companies to do business and bill Medicare and Medicaid.
We need to re-focus our efforts on exposing the harm to our clients done by dropped-shipped product and "love 'em and leave 'em" mass marketers.
We all know of clients who were negatively impacted by this service delivery model. If we want change, we have to act. We need to collect these stories and anecdotes so they can be aggregated and presented to regulatory agencies and the mainstream press. Public opinion will sway legislators and regulators alike--just remember the negative impact of The New York Times articles and the PBS broadcasts, to name just a few. NRRTS is developing a format to help you collect these stories.
Don't stop pushing our manufacturer partners to make needed changes in their behavior. Please remember, though, that they have been and continue to be on our side--even though their efforts are a product of enlightened self-interest. This motivation is not necessarily a bad thing--it has kept them, and will keep them, in the game with us for the long haul. hme
Simon Margolis is executive director of NRRTS.