Retired school principal joins former students in new HME venture

Monday, October 31, 2005

EDEN, N.C. - As a high school principal, Wayne Tuggle presided over the education of Kevin and Keith Layne. Now the fraternal twins are teaching the retired administrator a thing or two about HME.
Prior to retiring last year, Tuggle spent 30 years as a high school principal. His retirement, however, lasted all of six weeks before the Laynes talked him into coming on board at Layne's Family Pharmacy in Eden, N.C.
"I taught them a long time ago, and I've enjoyed working with them," said Tuggle. "I've gone from one career to something else. You just have to learn new acronyms, vendors and what the products are. People is people is people."
In September, with pick-up trucks and homemade barbecue, the 29 employees of Layne's got down to the business of moving the company from a 3,500 square-foot building into 12,000 square feet of space.
The expansion allows the company to grow from a pharmacy offering a catalog of DME products into a full-fledged HME.
"HME is almost new for us," said Tuggle, who serves as the company's general manager. "Before, we had practically no floor space at all."
It's really no surprise that the Laynes decided to expand their DME offering. There are about 24,000 independent pharmacies in the United States, and more than half of them embrace HME to some extent, according to the National Community Pharmacy Association. Despite recent cuts by Medicare and other payers, the NCPA still encourages pharmacists to give the HME business a good look (see HME News 9/2005).
With a long history and deep relationships in this town of 16,000, the brothers and Tuggle possess key ingredients for HME success. And by filling hundreds of prescriptions a week, there's no shortage of walk-in traffic.
"They saw a real need here for their patients," said consultant Jack Evans, who helped design the new location. "They are in an aging area. Their customers needed homecare products."
The company's new showroom has a dozen wheelchairs and several scooters and power wheelchairs. Other products include home oxygen, CPAP and BiPAP and diabetes supplies. Currently, the store devotes about 5,000 square feet to HME. Pharmacy fills the rest.
"The first day we sold a couple of lift chairs and a power wheelchair," said Tuggle. "The wheelchair we sold for cash, I believe."