We don't know what we don't know

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A few years ago during a rough time in my life, I was living by myself when one day my home water heater stopped working. I didn't have much money, but the weather was warm so I decided to take cold showers until my finances improved. As the weather grew colder, my showers got shorter--and extremely painful. Finally, I decided to take the front cover off the water heater to get a model number. With any luck, I thought, maybe all I need to do is replace the heating elements. With the cover off, I noticed a red reset button, and out of curiosity I pushed it. Thirty minutes later, I was taking my first hot shower in months.

This story reminds me of something a friend once told me: "We don't know what we don't know." What this means is that we don't get in life what we want; we get what we picture. I was down on my luck and figured my water heater must be beyond repair. What you believe in your mind is your reality--whether you're right or wrong.

I see HME providers fall into this trap regularly. They see only one way to do business, when, in fact, if they broke out of their cocoon, they would see a world of possibilities.

For example, when my wife, Gina, became sick a few years ago, we were like babes in the woods. Neither of us had ever been through anything like this before. At the time, I thought our HME provider was great. He was helpful and quick to provide reimbursable products that the doctor prescribed, but beyond that he was blind to Gina's needs. In hindsight, I can now name several pieces of equipment--cash products--that our provider, who shunned cash sales, did not recommend. That's too bad because they would have made a big difference in Gina's recovery.

If I were to create the ideal HME provider today, he would fill the physician's order for reimbursable products, but also supply cash items that legitimately address a patient's condition. Give your patients the option. It will brand your company as a source of innovative products, improve your customer service and improve your bottom line.

Fortunately, as I travel from coast to coast promoting my product, I find that many HME providers have begun to do this. They have begun to change the movie in their minds. They are expanding their retail sales and exploring new marketing trends. They are hungry for anything that will improve their bottom line and the lives of their patients. They realize that nothing ever stays the same. We are either growing or dying. The choice is ours.

Here's another story: A grandfather was walking down a beach one day with his grandson. From time to time, the old man stopped, picked up a starfish and tossed it back into the sea. The grandson asked his grandfather what he was doing and why? If we leave them here in the sand, the grandfather said, the sun will dry them out and they will die. But there are hundreds of them, how can we make a difference, the boy asked. The grandfather stopped, picked up a starfish and threw it to safety. It sure made a difference to that one, he said.

Gary E. Owens is the inventor and co-founder of TenderCare beds.