Providers consider Big Three when purchasing equipment

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

YARMOUTH, Maine - When it comes to buying equipment, HME providers look closely at three criteria--price, quality and reliability--but not necessarily in that order, according to the results of an HME NewsPoll that will appear in the September issue.

If they can get all three, that's great. If they can't, most seem willing to pay more if product quality is high and the manufacturer is a reliable business partner. The reason for that is simple, they say.

"The quality of the equipment and supplies that I provide to my customers speaks as much to the quality of my company as do the employees," commented Jim Larson, president of Home O2 in Tampa, Fla.

Of the 115 people who responded to the poll, 95 (83%) said they consider brand names important when making buying decisions. But with competitive bidding and other reimbursement cuts biting into profitability, 83 (73%) said they expected to buy more non-brand products in the future.

Providers indicated in their comments, however, that while they may consider buying less expensive products, they do not want to jeopardize patient safety or their company's reputation by supplying unreliable equipment.

A number of respondents also said that acquisition cost is less important than a product's total lifetime cost. As one provider said: "The idea of cheaper acquisition cost sounds good, but ethically we still have to put out equipment that will hold up."

Added another: "We figure in how hard the equipment will be used and (whether) we will have many service calls if we go with the cheaper product."

When it comes to choosing a manufacturer to work with, providers want good warranties, knowledgeable sales reps, convenient ordering procedures, quick delivery, financing, parts availability, buying group contracts and quick response time for technical service.

"We are very concerned with a company's reputation as a leader in a particular product line," said one provider. "We look at the ease of doing business, quality of equipment, credit terms, advances in new technology and freight policy."

Of course, for some providers, price is king.

"For Medicare patients, the primary criteria is price," said Alan Shivley, director of purchasing for Apple Homecare Medical Supply in Richardson, Texas. "We buy the cheapest product that qualifies for the HCPCS code. Price is the only consideration."