On-the-spot referrals

Monday, March 31, 2008

You might say Tom Hanchar’s got a wrap on wound care referrals in his community. In January, he opened a satellite office in a local hospital.
“They can leave the physician’s office, walk down the hall, come right in and get treatment, supplies and education,” said Hanchar, president and CEO of Thomas International in Fort Wayne, Ind.
The 1,875 square-foot Lymphedema, Edema and Wound Care Group is located in Lutheran Hospital, part of the large Triad hospital network. Hanchar said patient care falls to his company after they are discharged from the hospital but still in need of treatment.
“We had to run the gauntlet to get the final blessing of the hospital CEO,” said Hanchar. “The hospital wanted to make sure our operation did not compete with the hospital’s.”
The Wound Care Group also gets referrals from home health agencies, including patients discharged from long-term care facilities who have developed ulcers, he said.
The location is staffed by two employees who perform patient intake and assessment, file insurance paperwork, and get treatment started.
Hanchar prescribes a whole-patient approach for treating wounds.
“We get a sense of their atmosphere, their home environment, their eating habits,” he said. “We teach and train them and tell them to follow up with their physician. We don’t just take an item off the shelf and say, ‘Here you go.’”
That educational approach extends to the doctors.
“A lot of times the prescription does not fully comply with what the patient needs,” said Hanchar. “We’ll call back and ask to use something else. They agree 100% of the time.”
Wound care currently accounts for 15% of Thomas International’s business. The company also offers DME, oxygen and rehab.
Hanchar expects the wound care segment to grow and plans to invest in technology, including a hyperbaric oxygen therapy unit which will promote faster healing of chronic wounds; and a computer imaging program that allows close monitoring of wounds. At each visit, a picture is taken of the wound and scanned into the computer, measuring depth and size of the wound to ensure that treatment is progressing.
Technology goes hand in hand with patient care, says Hanchar.
“If patients can’t come to us, we go to them,” he said. “We’ll stay on them until we feel comfortable that the treatment’s working.” HME