Vendors to providers: We're here to serve you

Sunday, February 27, 2011

LAS VEGAS - The question certain to be circulating on the show floor at Medtrade Spring is "How can providers that didn't win a Medicare bid continue in the HME business?"

Some of the vendors exhibiting at the show, set for April 12-14 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, stand ready to offer their advice on what providers can do to survive in a post-competitive bidding climate.

Dale Nash, business development manager for wheelchairs at Port Washington, N.Y.-based Drive Medical, contends that the HME industry has proven resilient to every policy mandate that has come along in the past and that competitive bidding should be no different.

"Every change seems to cost us some providers, but every change brings a new generation that manages to find opportunity among the chaos," Nash said. "They have to find other business opportunities to fill that short-term cutoff of their cash flow. Many providers have been working over the years to become less reliant on Medicare business. They have developed other channels for their products and services."

At this point in the process, it's still too early to tell what will happen to the industry at large with competitive bidding, because significant confusion exists about repairs and coordination of care, said Julie Piriano, director of rehab industry affairs for Exeter, Pa.-based Pride Mobility Products. Even so, she is confident that solid vendor-provider partnerships will keep HME businesses strong.

"Although the power wheelchair market remains challenging in today's legislative and economic environment, it still possesses tremendous rewards for both providers and their clients," Piriano said. "That is why it is important, now more than ever before, to align with a manufacturer that can help providers create an economically sound, patient-first business model."

Plainview, N.Y.-based Fastrack Healthcare Systems will be demonstrating new software to assist providers with competitive bidding. The software pre-loads competitive bidding pricing and flags products not authorized under the program.

"While we hope that competitive bidding will be eliminated, providers can still be successful under (the program) and the overall regulatory changes," said President Spencer Kay. "We believe that providers are a very entrepreneurial group that will find ways to adjust to the new situation by reducing operating costs and improving productivity through automation, as well as find new avenues of revenue."

Fairbury, Neb.-based ramp manufacturer Prairie View Industries is tailoring its Medtrade message toward retail opportunities for mobility providers.

"Competitive bidding has changed the game in how we market to dealers," said M.J. Sonnenfeld, vice president of sales. "They aren't just looking for product, they are looking for an education. We will train our dealers and give them the tools to sell. It is about them shifting from being order takers to being salespeople."