The rise of geriatric case managers
There's a growing group of professionals wielding significant influence over the care of aging Americans, including their choice of HME provider. They're called professional geriatric care managers (GCMs), and if you're not already looking to them as a potential partner and referral source, it's time to take note.
GCMs are often nurses or social workers by training, but they specialize in helping older adults and their families handle the challenges of aging. This may include evaluating a patient's housing options, assisting with daily activities, navigating financial and legal issues, and providing referrals to other professionals like eldercare attorneys or HME providers.
"I have a DME supplier that I refer to constantly," said Linda Fodrini-Johnson, a professional GCM and executive director of Eldercare Services in Walnut Creek, Calif. "You can't be a very good geriatric care manager if you don't have a good relationship with an HME dealer."
Fodrini-Johnson's go-to HME dealer is Stephen Larsen, owner of Diablo Medical Supply in Walnut Creek, Calif., who estimates he receives about five orders a month through her practice.
Larsen said the clients of most GCMs are affluent private payors, so the HME dealer must provide excellent service and offer a wide array of quality retail products to keep their business. "That's the demographic we have in our area, and that's who we cater to," he said. "We provide home deliveries, and if there's a problem with our equipment, we jump immediately to fix it."
Yet even respiratory-only dealers may get referrals from GCMs, said Fodrini-Johnson. "I have a client who's unhappy with her oxygen supplier so I'm helping her shop for a new one," she said.
The field of professional geriatric care management is exploding, thanks not only to the aging baby boomer population but also to the trend of far-flung families. Ann Krauss, spokesperson for the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, said her organization's membership tops 2,000, and "we estimate there are three times that number working out there who are not members," she said.
So why haven't we heard about this potential referral source before?
"We're sort of an underground resource," said Debbie Repp, a professional GCM and owner of Mature Options in Richmond, Va. "We're typically small organizations with one to three care managers. We get 90% of our business from word-of-mouth so we don't do a lot of advertising."
Repp and Fodrini-Johnson agree that partnerships between GCMs and HME dealers can be beneficial not only for the professionals but also for the patient's quality of care.
"It's extremely important for all professionals to work together so we don't duplicate services and save each other time," said Fodrini-Johnson.
But Repp says HME dealers who want her referrals must be top-notch. "We want an HME who will deliver quickly, make deliveries on the evenings and weekends, repair equipment fast," she said. "We want to work with people who make us look good, and we in turn make them look good."
To find the GCMs in your area, search online at www.caremanager.org