Wound care providers must stay step ahead

Monday, March 31, 2008

From bandages and dressings to negative pressure wound therapy pumps, there is no shortage of products to feed the booming wound care market. Staying profitable means juggling products on many typically low-margin items, say providers.
‘Product of the week’
With dozens of manufacturers offering hundreds of products, referral sources aren’t necessarily brand loyal, say providers.
“I can almost tell you when the sales reps have been in town by virtue of what’s being prescribed,” said Dave Anderson, owner of Andersons Medical Products in Terre Haute, Ind. “We’ll see use on those products then it will fade away.”
Rather than constantly turning over his inventory, Anderson substitutes other items with the same code wherever possible.
“The physicians are almost always amenable to it,” he said.
Mike Watson, vice president of government affairs for Santa Rosa, Calif.-based American Medical Technologies., stocks as many different items as possible. Currently he carries SKUs from nearly every manufacturer.
“Each manufacturer has slightly different products,” said Watson. “The program we provide is tailored to each patient. So we just carry everything necessary to provide for our patients.”
Some of the hottest wound care products contain silver, which prevents bacteria from growing and decreases healing time. Despite its efficacy, Medicare won’t pay extra for silver, even though such items can cost three times as much as the same product without silver.
“If a patient is in need of a dressing with silver and it can be justified, we’ll provide it but it isn’t the first choice because of the reimbursement,” said Watson.
Generic vs. brand name
As with many prescription items, wound care products often have generic equivalents. Daryl Bowman, owner of Bowman Medical in San Carlos, Calif., says type of product, rather than cost, drives his decisions on whether he supplies a generic or not.
“If we can continue to keep prices in line and still provide the name-brand products, we will,” he said. “With cover dressings and gauzes, it’s not that important but for the products that go directly into the wound have certain properties where the generics are not as successful.”
Negative pressure pumps
NPWT is still relatively new, but thanks to growing clinical data, it’s moving from its niche to the mainstream, says Bernie Laurel, vice president, head of Medela Healthcare Americas, a pump manufacturer.
“When you have a chronic non-healing wound with significant defects in the skin, you have to grow new tissue,” said Laurel. “That isn’t easily done by traditional dressings.”
Unlike with most DME, pump manufacturers are the primary providers of their own products. Medela recently became accredited as a DMEPOS provider and bid in all 10 CBAs. HME