Specialty side niche broadens patient base

Monday, July 31, 2006

RAPID CITY, S.D. - With NCB on the horizon and Medicare cutting reimbursement like crazy, WestMed Rehab more than ever doesn't want all its eggs in one basket.
The provider recently ramped up its marketing efforts with an eye toward growing its orthotics and prosthetics business.
Locally, WestMed enjoys a 50% market share of O&P. It also does custom rehab and respiratory.
"It spreads our liability a little to be more diverse," said Tim Pederson, CEO. "That way we don't have every segment of our business under assault."
The eight-year-old company got into O&P in 2001 and has slowly built it up to about 20% of sales. It makes artificial limbs and braces in a recently expanded lab for a patient base that is more varied then the typical HME, said Pederson.
"Traumatic accidents happen across all age groups, so there's a lot of people walking around missing limbs," said Pederson. "The diabetic population plays into that. I think that's true of any O&P practice for prosthetic patients-- your lower limb amputations are going to be driven by and large by the diabetic population."
WestMed also makes custom braces. An emphasis on early intervention with degenerative diseases like cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy drives a large pediatric population for that market, said Pederson.
Overall, he added, O&P fits well with WestMed's high-end rehab model, said Pederson.
"It's a similar evaluation process, similar sourcing of components to create the final product to get them mobile," said Pederson. "I think the funding process is easier. The code sets are more defined."
It takes two to three weeks to get a patient mobile with an artificial limb, and a limb typically lasts two to three years.
Pederson said O&P is fairly insulated from reimbursement cuts, partially due to a shortage of practitioners that drives down utilization. He has two certified fitters.
"My guys are the best in the world," said Pederson. "A (good fitter) is one who takes great pride in the craftsmanship and takes great pride in getting people mobile."