Question & Answer

Thursday, January 31, 2002

You have mail: PSA discovers winning e-mail strategy with docs
NORCROSS, Ga. - There seems to be no doubt that sooner or later someone is going to develop an e-CMN procedure that has legs among HME providers. But even if such a process surfaces, one important question remains: Will doctor's embrace it? Embrace it, that is, if they are not somehow forced to do so, say, by docking their reimbursement if they don't. A recent HME NewsPoll (HME News 1/15/02) revealed that only 20% of

HMEs currently exchange e-mail with physician referral sources, and many in that 20% group do so infrequently. Chesapeake Rehab Equipment, for example, communicates with physi-cian's via e-mail about once a month, usually seeking some kind of documentation or following up on a piece of equipment that has been sent out. "And that just occurs if we happen to get the doctor's e-mail address, and we generally don't get that," said Gary Gilberti, Chesapeake's president. By comparison, Pediatric Services of America has had great success collecting physician e-mail addresses and communicating with them that way. Last month, HME News interviewed PSA's v.p. of sales, marketing and development, Joseph Harrelson, to find out how PSA developed its e-mail physician address book.

HME NEWS: When did you start collecting physician e-mail addresses, and how did you do it?

JOE HARRELSON: A little over a year ago we began asking our sales and marketing folks to get, if possible, the physician e-mail addresses. I'm not sure how many we have, but we're adding to the list every month. We tell (physicians) that there's information regarding various aspects of home care that we think they may be interested in and ask if they'd like us to use e-mail to communicate that information with them. I'd say 90% are fine with it. We caution our sales people: maintain contact with the physican but don't overwhelm them. There's nothing worse than a bunch of e-mail on your computer that you've got to wipe out.

HME: What do the physicans like about it?

JH: The physicians find the e-mails to be much more manageable because they can deal with them on their time. If you call them, they may be in the middle of something. You are not wasting a lot of time by calling back and forth and not connecting. That can be frustrating to them.

HME: Do they respond?

JH: They'll send back responses like 'got your information and appreciated it.' Recently, when the guidelines for sleep apnea coverage through Medicare changed, we sent that out to a lot of physicians who run sleep labs, and they were thankful that they were getting the news.

HME: Given your experience, do you think doctors will buy into an e-CMN process?

JH: I think so. I really believe that they will like it, certain ones. You've got some doctors who can't even turn on a computer. They've always had people do those things for them. But the ones who are really efficient are using computers now. They are using hand helds. It's interesting to watch. I believe they will embrace it. When you are dealing with a lot of these physicians, they've got things coming at them from all angles. This puts everything in one medium to deal with it. HME