Thriving in chaos: a new approach to healthcare industry partnership

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Friday, September 30, 2005

These continue to be pivotal and future shaping times for our industry. In talking with industry colleagues, one thing is very clear: the HME industry continues to be tested. We must have a clear vision of what we want for this industry, as well as a defined strategy to help create the desired outcome. Part of this strategy must continue to include innovative partnerships and out-of-the-box thinking.
Today we are challenged in every market segment. Regardless of your business focus, we are all going to be impacted by one or more outcomes related to competitive bidding, coding, coverage and pricing policies or even regulation regarding accreditation requirements.
How can one thrive amid constant market evolution? The answer lies in our ability to help change the game and become a more integral component of the healthcare industry.
Put another way, we (manufactures and providers) have to not just respond to the stated needs of healthcare professionals (clinicians, therapists, physicians, case workers, etc.) but instead work to become a true partner with these professionals to clearly understand where they are headed, get prepared "way ahead of time" to meet those needs and effectively influence the appropriate equipment and reimbursement requirements originated by healthcare professionals. Several of us inside Sunrise - including Rita Hostak, our vice president of government relations; Carey Winkel, our president of North American commercial operations; Bernd Krebs, our president of mobility operations; and Mark Ludwig, our president of respiratory operations - decided we needed to take the industry lead and bring in someone who can help all of us accomplish this vital objective. In late July, we created a new position and announced the appointment of Dr. Robert Hoover as our senior vice president of global clinical services. Dr. Hoover brought to Sunrise a broad healthcare management and clinical background including seven years with CIGNA Healthcare as DMERC medical director for Region D. This was a landmark event for all those we are in the business of serving.
With this major move, we feel we can more effectively incorporate consumer and clinical requirements in our offerings and into the funding landscape. "What makes sense clinically?; what works best for all stakeholders - patients, providers and payors?" These are the questions we must be asking ourselves as an industry, and at Sunrise we are committed to helping all of us to become a stronger and healthier industry that just doesn't respond but is truly a part of the decision process - with both governmental bodies and healthcare professionals.
At the end of the day, medical equipment manufacturers have to realize that in addition to being in business, they are a healthcare partner. The same is true for providers. Many physicians, clinicians and other referrals sources depend on our collective knowledge of available products and expect us to provide the appropriate device or service for their (and I would argue our) patient. Medical equipment manufacturers and providers have to not only have great product knowledge but also an intimate understanding of the medical condition they are designed to improve. If we can achieve this objective along with completely understanding the healthcare economics we operate under, we can truly become part of the healthcare chain and work in partnership with the physician and clinical community.
We have a choice in how we invest our human and financial resources. We could have chosen to invest significant money in advertising to further build our great brands but that will not help this industry and the "chaos" that we continue to face. Ultimately, it is our obligation as a healthcare partner with you to do right by you and right by those we all serve. If we don't, we are most certainly missing the point of why we are all in this industry: "to improve people's lives."
The appointment of Dr. Hoover, together with our continuing efforts in the governmental arena led by Rita Hostak, combined with our commitment to innovation in products and services will help all of us improve people's lives and become truly part of a thriving healthcare industry.
Together we will build a strong, professional and reliable industry for the people we serve.

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Mike Hammes is the CEO of Sunrise Medical.

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