Respiratory providers second guess themselves

Monday, March 29, 2010

What does it say that providers who specialize in respiratory products and services—long thought to be the bread and butter of the HME industry—are now thinking about embracing hospital beds, walkers and other run-of-the-mill equipment?

Well, things aren't what they used to be, providers say.

"As a respiratory specialty company, we're now asking ourselves, 'Do we expand our product line?'" asked John Reed, executive vice president and COO of Pro2 Respiratory Services in Cincinnati. "We've specialized in respiratory from the beginning, because we thought, if we specialized, everyone on our team, from sales reps to customer service reps, would be better trained. They wouldn't have a broad product line to worry about."

But coming off 2009, a year where oxygen and sleep were hit hard with reimbursement and policy changes, providers who specialize in respiratory products and services are second guessing themselves.

"Rarely do we have patients who have a need for respiratory services and, say, a hospital bed, so we usually pass those referrals onto another qualified company," Reed said. "Should we be doing that or should we be creating a one-stop shop?"

While Reed is still contemplating expanding beyond his specialty, other providers have already taken the plunge.

Provider Edward Eubanks transitioned Charlotte Respiratory Solutions in Charlotte, N.C., from a respiratory specialty company to a full-line provider about a year ago, when one of his sales reps urged him to.

"It's done well," said Eubanks, one of the owners of the Charlotte, N.C.-based company.

Although Eubanks added DME to diversify his product mix, he also added it to increase respiratory sales.

"We thought we would gain more referrals for respiratory if we added DME," he said. "I'd guess we've increased our referrals for respiratory by 15% to 20%. It has been significant."

Another factor that's pushing providers to expand beyond their specialties: national competitive bidding, a program that encompasses nine different product categories of HME, including oxygen and CPAPs.

"Competitive bidding was a minor part, but it was a part," Eubanks said.