Small provider, big ideas

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

LOMITA, Calif. - When Jim Leedom says he's going to change his company's image from a full-line HME provider to a "wheelchair specialist," he thinks big--literally.

"My original idea was to put a 15-foot wheelchair on the roof, but (the city) wouldn't let me do that," said Leedom, owner of Home Health Depot in Lomita, Calif., part of Los Angeles County. "Instead I'm going to mount (regular-sized) wheelchairs to my signage."

Since Home Health Depot is located on a major highway, Leedom hopes the new signage will help draw in customers. He has also redesigned the parking lot to make it more conducive to high traffic.

Right now, wheelchairs comprise about 20% of Home Health Depot's business. Leedom hopes to boost that primarily with cash sales and rentals.

"We do some rentals already for cruise ships and hotels, and there's good money in that," he said. "Depending on the equipment, it's anywhere from $30 per week to $200 per week."

Leedom also plans to market his new niche with some good old-fashioned door knocking.

"I want to hit more doctors' offices and assistive living facilities," he said. "I've been doing this long enough that if they want pediatric wheelchairs, I can do pediatric; if they want bariatric wheelchairs, I can do bariatric. I just need to get that image out."

Leedom plans to seal the deal by educating doctors on the importance of working with an accredited provider.

"If I can go in there and point out that I'm accredited, when there are three or four pages worth of providers in the Yellow Pages that are not--that will help me get my foot in the door," Leedom said.

Becoming a "wheelchair specialist" is only Leedom's latest idea for reshaping his company. After a private payer recently told him it plans to reduce his reimbursement to 60% of Medicare's allowable, he came up with another one.

"If all insurance companies start doing this and Medicare actually goes through with NCB, we're going to start doing what my doctor does," Leedom said. "He says, 'You pay upfront; we'll bill your insurance; good luck.'" hme