Wellness delivers cash sales to N.D. provider

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

BISMARK, N.D. - Nine months ago, Great Plains Rehabilitation Services looked to wellness products to help boost cash sales and reduce its reliance on Medicare and other third-party payers. So far, Greg Lord likes what he sees, calling the 100% cash revenue stream “refreshing.”

As of mid-December, Great Plains Health Company, the 7,000-square-foot health food/wellness store, had generated $350,000 in cash sales. For 2003, the store’s budgeted to do $900,000, and Lord’s projecting 50% growth for the next five years.

Lord oversees the wellness company and the $7.5 million HME company, which both belong to St. Alexius Medical Center.

“I believe it is a natural extension of our HME business,” Lord said. “The products are health related, and traditionally, HME people have good knowledge of retail, how to display items and how to work with customers.”

What’s more, he said, “Medicare will continue to ratchet down reimbursement for all areas of our business so we do need alternative sources of revenue to sustain our business and for future growth.”

Great Plains Health Company sells more than 5,000 products, including vitamins and supplements, natural health foods and nutritional products, and exercise equipment.

To gain referrals, the store is located adjacent to an medicine facility that includes a chiropractor, two nurse practitioners, an acupuncturist, a massage therapist, three family practice physicians and a dermatologist.

St. Alexius opened the wellness company in a mall rather than retrofitting its 12-year-old HME location, believing it’s easier to introduce a new concept and location than retrain consumers to change their shopping habits, Lord said.

“Many people feel they need a prescription in-hand when they walk into an HME store,” Lord said. “Our mall location focus is to encourage cash sales to consumers who are in charge of their own health care.”

The company’s Billings, Mont., location, which opened in June, offers both HME and wellness products. That’s because in a new location customers don’t have preconceived notions of what a company does; therefore, they don’t need to alter their buying habits, Lord said. HME