Walnut Medical suits up for success

Saturday, March 31, 2007

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. - Walnut Medical Services has opened four new locations in the past year, all near hospitals or in medical complexes, to strengthen its ties to referral sources. One location, here, caters to nurses by featuring uniforms exclusively.
"We were looking for more of a cash business that would expand our bottom line," said John Kaiser, director of the 22-year-old Walnut Medical, which relies on respiratory products for much of its business. "Our walk-in traffic for uniforms has tripled."
Walnut Medical now has eight locations serving central and western Pennsylvania.
While most of the provider's locations feature some uniforms, its new location in Johnstown, Pa., features a larger inventory and a full-time digitizer who develops logos.
Providers have long looked at uniforms and med-surgical supplies like blood pressure cuffs as a way to get referrals sources inside their stores, industry consultants say. In the past, however, they've never been a way to put money in the bank.
That may be changing, said consultant Bob Weir.
"Because you don't have to worry about getting paid with uniforms, I think a lot of people are looking at them now as more of a revenue generator," he said.
Providing uniforms and med-surgical supplies can also open providers up to a whole new world of referral sources, mainly EMT and ambulance services, said consultant Joe Groden.
Walnut Medical has also opened new locations in Lewistown, Pa., where it's in the same town as one hospital and within 20 miles of two others; in Boswell, Pa., where it shares space in a medical complex with physicians and PTs; and another location in Johnstown, Pa., where it neighbors a medical center.
While consultants report that expansions are on the decline, providers like Kaiser are "smart," Weir said.
"If 50% of your competition is probably going to go out of business (due to national competitive bidding), it's probably the best time to expand," he said.