Wanted: Creative thinkers

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The HME industry must seize control of its own destiny and aggressively pursue new opportunities if it is to lift itself out of the doldrums, business experts say. How do they do that? By thinking creatively, they say.

Medtrade organizers strongly support this notion and are using the show's keynote address on Tuesday, Nov. 16, as a springboard for inspiring new ways of thinking. The presentation by business professor Cliff Schorer, titled "The Power of Innovation and Creativity in Today's Turbulent Business Environment," is designed to provide "a roadmap to success in the HME industry."

Schorer, the "Entrepreneur in Residence" at Columbia University Graduate School of Business, describes his message as "a journey replete with examples of how creative thought and innovation can bring businesses to new plateaus of prosperity." During turbulent economic times and changing business landscapes, real opportunities inevitably emerge, Schorer contends, and incorporating "outside the box" thinking, employing new business models and applying state-of-the-art technology "can catapult a company to new levels of growth and profit."

Show director Kevin Gaffney says getting industry members to think creatively is a key mission of Medtrade 2010 because "there is no doubt providers will have to become increasingly creative to manage their businesses in the coming years." To support this initiative, Medtrade recently created a Blue Ribbon Task Force of industry business leaders to offer advice and help the industry generate innovative ideas.

Medtrade organizer Nielsen Expositions has also applied the "creative thinking" concept toward designing this year's show, offering new programs to help HME companies develop effective business strategies for the future, Gaffney said.

"In the educational conference program schedule, there is definitely a shift to looking at retail sales," he said. "Yet that is not the only approach. Medicare will remain a substantial part of the HME business, as well as reimbursement from third-party payers. It is coming up with a mix of these that works best for a provider's business model and future goals."

Other byproducts of Nielsen's "creative thinking": A NextGen Medtrade Accessible Home on the show floor that will showcase HME products, as well as some that are considered environmentally friendly; and a Consumer Advocacy Day.

Spencer Kay, president of Plainview, N.Y.-based Fastrack Healthcare Systems, and a member of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, says providers need to get creative in a number of different ways, from modifying business models to finding alternative revenue sources to cutting overhead costs to embracing information technology systems.

In short, they need to do "everything necessary to find a competitive advantage," he said.

Task Force member Kirsten DeLay agrees, saying that the "business as usual" approach no longer works.

"Tougher times call for creativity regardless of the industry," said DeLay, executive vice president of sales management and operational training for Exeter, Pa.-based Pride Mobility. "The industry as a whole should be thinking outside the box to maximize efficiencies while still providing reliable, quality products and services."