A shot in the arm

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

YARMOUTH, Maine – HME providers who offer flu shot clinics say it’s a good way to get potential customers in the door. 

“My theory is, when people come in here and get a good visual, they’ll think of us when they need equipment down the road,” said Carolyn Sluiter, owner of Freeport, Ill.-based Freeport Home Medical. “Otherwise, unless people are in need of what we provide, they don’t know we’re here.”

HME providers must partner with someone medically qualified, like a physician, to offers the shots; Freeport has partnered with county health department for five years. Flu shots cost $25 and are often covered by insurance.

Freeport Home Medical’s flu clinic is the only one offered in the downtown area. It draws about 30 people each year, said Sluiter.

“Every year we see a few more people,” she said. “None of the pharmacies are downtown anymore, and seven miles to the strip mall is far if you can’t drive.” 

Provider Gary Sheehan says flu shot clinics have drawn foot traffic to his three retail locations for the past few years. The program also works out well for the doctor he partners with. 

“Nobody’s going to drive 30 minutes for a flu shot,” said Sheehan, president/CEO of Sandwich, Mass.-based Cape Medical Supply. “This gives him a much wider audience.”

Sheehan draws customers with newspaper ads and notices on his website, Facebook page and Twitter account. He said he sees a mix of new people and regular customers. 

Still, it isn’t as simple as putting out an ad and clearing some space in the store. The community has to need the service, providers say.

Health Systems Services offered an H1N1 vaccine clinic in 2009 that drew more than 500 people, but it hasn’t offered any clinics since. 

“The run-of-the-mill flu shot is pretty commonplace,” said Doug Mooradian, director of marketing and public relations at Niagara Falls, N.Y.-based Health Systems Services. “We’re putting our efforts into offering education sessions about CPAP, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.”