VGM spins nationwide O2 network

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

WATERLOO, Iowa - Although independent respiratory suppliers fervently believe they can ‘beat the pants off’ national suppliers any day of the week, they are as likely to admit that the nationals retain their pants when it comes to marketing. VGM aims to change that.

At Medtrade, the trade group of 2,500 suppliers unveiled plans for a respiratory group of 250 suppliers, similar to its rehab component, U.S. Rehab.

“Respiratory providers have different needs and issues, and we’re here to help them market themselves against the nationals,” Schaefer said. “Through informal conversations over the years, members have told us they need help in this area.”

Nationwide Respiratory will provide the marketing machinery for its members, developing television advertisements and other direct-to-consumer materials, strategies for marketing to physicians, access to new product lines, managed care priority referrals through VGM’s Homelink network and disease state management programs for COPD, CHF and asthma.

VGM is developing the new division with guidance from Harold Davis, RRT, a 15-year veteran of the respiratory business whose calling card is the development over six years of a respiratory program at United Medical in Wynne, Ark.

Davis is a believer in the ability of an independent to provide superior service to respiratory patients but says suppliers are lagging when it comes to marketing.

“They have not had to resources to commit to television ads, print ads, and to spend time developing innovative programs,” he said. “They don’t toot their own horn. The programs we are developing include follow-up with the physician - to let the physician know how superior the service they are getting is from independent company is.”

The division will offer instructional programs designed to teach clinicians how to sell products, and Nationwide staff will represent members at AARC, the Pulmonology Association and Thoracic Society.

Criteria for membership include being an existing VGM member and a focus primarily on respiratory.

“We don’t want those who are just dabbling,” Davis said. “This is for those who are aggressively trying to build their respiratory business.”

The additon of respiratory therapists to staff is critical to the success of the independent’s program. Davis wants to change the mind-set that begrudingly addsa therapist to staff “because they feel like they have to,” he said.

When therapists are trained and are part of the marketing program, they become an asset to the business,” said Davis. “I have never added a therapist in my career - 15 years in homecare - in which I have not increased revenue.”

The MED Group launched a similar respiratory network in 2001. Led by Jacki McClure, today that network leverages the clout of 60 members to sign preferred network contracts with manufacturers and work on best practices for members.

Schaefer said Nationwide is planning the development of 30-second television ads and a call center. Schaefer, who for several years has managed VGM’s Homecare Provider’s Co-op, will work full-time as the respiratory division’s vice president.