Sunrise dons a white jacket

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Bob Hoover's appointment as Sunrise Medical's senior vice president of global clinical affairs is the first, giant step of a journey toward a more intimate relationship between the company and the healthcare system, according to Sunrise CEO Mike Hammes.
"I believe that if we can as an industry and a company become a much deeper part of the system, we'll have a more stable business, more predictable business and we'll benefit both ends of the spectrum -- both the healthcare system and ourselves," he said.
The decision to up the clinical ante at Sunrise is one answer to rising calls for an evidence-based approach to product development and data, not hunches and intuition, to support claims of efficacy by the home medical equipment industry. HME clinicians frequently complain that manufacturers put too much pizzazz into the product and too little proof for anybody's pudding, especially if the product debuts in a category of escalating utilization.
"We've got to put clinical science and objective work behind technology," said Joe Lewarski, a respiratory therapist and vice president of clinical and government affairs at Inogen. "Having one of the larger manufacturers publicly acknowledge the need to do that and bring a top level person in is an important step for us as an industry."
It's Hoover's job at Sunrise to inject more clinical credibility into the product development process -- credibility that will ultimately persuade payers as well as the clinical community in general that these products truly do serve a medical function.
"If you can avoid getting that stone of convenience hung around your product's neck, to one that fits a medical need and improves outcomes with somebody, that's what third party payers want to see when they're going to pay for a product," said Hoover.
Hammes said he wants Hoover to advise Sunrise on what the company should be doing, where product plans should be going, what issues they should be addressing. That, he said, is the first and foremost function of the newly created position. But it doesn't end there.
Hammes also emphasized that Hoover would play a role with Sunrise Medical's customers, from the independents to the nationals, "who have the same issues we have."
"We see a second role with our customer base, helping them to deal with and understand and respond to and have a better business with the Medicaids, Medicare and managed care," he said.
Hoover plans to approach Sunrise Medical's customers as business people and providers in the healthcare continuum. Outcomes is the buzzword that makes sense to him, and not just for disease management programs.
"Through that intense management, you know what your output is, what your costs are, and you are also able to capture the benefit," he said. "I would like to see that same model applied to the HME industry. It can be done."