These are the 'glory days of demand' for HME

Friday, October 11, 2013

ORLANDO, Fla. – There are HME products that people need—they just don’t know it yet. It’s up to providers to make that connection, The VGM Group’s Mike Mallaro told Medtrade attendees last week.

“Before the iPod, people couldn’t even imagine carrying 2,000 songs in your pocket,” said Mallaro, CFO, during his pre-conference session “The Future in HME.” “Steve Jobs said, ‘It’s not the customer’s job to know what she wants.’ That’s revolutionary thinking. Let’s translate that to us.”

Lessons from companies like Apple, Kohl’s and Starbucks can be applied to the challenges that HME providers face—including commoditization, reduced payments and new competitors, Mallaro said.

For example, Starbucks fought the commoditization of coffee by focusing on the customer experience.

“It’s not about price—it needs to be something more than that,” said Mallaro. “The customer experience matters.”

Among the new competitors in the industry: Wal-Mart, whose health and wellness division is 25 times the size of Apria Healthcare. Still, HME providers can show their worth, Mallaro said.

“This company can’t go to homes and can’t provide the level of service you can,” he said.

Providers can learn other lessons from successful companies: From McDonald’s, providers can learn the importance of finding the best business practices and sticking to them; and from Kohl’s, providers can learn the importance of customers finding everything they need in a single encounter.

If providers can build practices like these into their businesses, they can better take advantage of a “senior population explosion”—32 million new seniors from 2011 to 2030.

Mallaro called it the “glory days of demand,” if not the glory days of reimbursement.