Schlepping equipment isn’t the Mitchell way

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Mike Moran, managing editor

YPSILANTI, Mich. - Mitchell Home Medical’s CPAP program has put the “biggest” smile on the faces of its referral sources, and now owner Diane Loewen hopes the company’s new disease state management program does the same.

But by implementing programs that boost patient compliance and improve outcomes, Loewen’s trying to do more than please referral sources and boost referrals. She’s shooting to shatter impressions that she’s “this female equipment jockey.”

“We want to identify ourselves as a provider as opposed to a vendor,” said Loewen. “I believe physicians care, and I want to show them there is a difference when they refer to us.”

Mitchell Home Medical services 400 home oxygen patients and this fall plans to enroll 10-15% of the sickest and least compliant into a DSM program. By spending 10-12 hours over the course of a year in education and follow up, the program is designed to improve compliance and reduce healthcare costs.

The cost per patient: $600 to $800, said HME consultant Roberta Domos, who developed the program.

“The physicians and payers we’ve approached with this, whether or not they use us, see the validity,” said Anne Gaurini, vice president of patient services for Air Products Healthcare, which began Domos’ program about two years ago. “It shows our clinical expertise. We’re just not schlepping equipment around.”

While the program is costly to implement, it pays for itself and then some by boosting a company’s clinical reputation, which in turn garners additional referral business, Domos said.

Gaurini agreed but declined to say how much additional referral business the DSM program has generated for her company.

Loewen knows all about improved clinical outcomes leading to additional referrals. Her company initially had compliance problems with its CPAP program, and as a result referrals trickled in at about 10 a month. After tweaking the program and boosting compliance to 97%, monthly CPAP referrals jumped to about 80, Loewen said.

“Most HMEs are comfortable just putting equipment out there because it pays,” Loewen said. “I’m not comfortable with that. That is being complacent, and our heart is not there. I believe a good home care provider can come in and put quality care back into an equipment-based industry.” HME