Providers prowl show in search of new opportunities

Thursday, September 30, 2004

ORLANDO - HME providers have always had concerns on their minds during Medtrade and this year’s load is probably weightier than ever. Somehow though, diligent attendees always seem to find solutions through regular seminar attendance, constructive peer communications and thorough product shopping.

“We’re not worrying, we’re not whining,” said John Teevan, president of New Berlin, Wis.-based Home Care Medical. “We’re going to get smarter and we’ll come out fine.”

Teevan said he has a three-pronged strategy for this year’s show: seek out profitable niche products like bariatrics, learn more about rehab products to boost competency in that area and seek out opportunities in infusion therapy.

“Infusion hasn’t traditionally been a strong suit for Medtrade, but there has been a lot of pressure on physicians to bring it in-house, so we want to find out as much as we can,” Teevan said.

Joe Lewarski, president of Mentor, Ohio-based Hytech Homecare, says Medtrade is actually an opportunity for him to relax.

“It means getting information, networking and seeing where things are with product technology,” he said.

As for reimbursement pressures in the respiratory sphere, Lewarski says, the industry needs to focus on making smart machines that reduce demands on the provider.

“In oxygen, we’ll continue to see the evolution of technology as we get better delivery devices, particularly those focused on minimizing delivery and unnecessary interaction with the patient,” he said. “As oxygen reimbursement declines, we have to find more efficient ways to deliver oxygen that doesn’t incorporate expensive overhead like a fleet of trucks.”

To be sure, the Medicare rate squeeze threatens to put a crimp in the HME business, but Les DeFelice says it does no good to lament the situation.

“If we have to continually adjust our business model to match up to shrinking reimbursement, then that’s what we have to do,” said DeFelice, president of DeFelice Care, Wheeling, W.Va. “That’s why we’re looking for a system that lowers operating cost. You can’t just arbitrarily cut something back - it has to be integrated.”

Lowering product cost is just one part of the equation, he said, adding that manufacturers must also share in the responsibility.

“Manufacturers that help us solve these challenges are the ones that will win,” he said.