The chronicles of California, part 1


This morning, JoEllen Reed, our West Coast sales rep, and I decided to pop in on a couple of HME providers while we’re in the San Diego area visiting HME manufacturers.

Thanks to Roberto Del Rio of Special Care (owner is Terry Racciato) and Marty Helsing at Mobility Solutions (he also sits on the board of CAMPS) for being such good sports and good hosts. Let me say this about these HME and mobility providers: Medicare seems the least of their worries. The real battle here seems to be with Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, and private payers.

Our first official appointment of the day was with ResMed. Jo and I had lunch in the company’s cafeteria (I had an excellent salad and black bean soup) with Rachel Stafford and Steve Maland, who work in the marketing department and are, respectively, a native Californian and Minnesotan.

We had an interesting conversation about the correlation between the aesthetics of an HME provider’s location with CPAP compliance. If an HME provider has just a small lobby, a cold setup room and a warehouse, is it inviting for a patient who has just been told by his doctor or a sleep lab that he has to strap a mask to his face every night before going to sleep?

Probaby not.

So ResMed is trying to figure out how to help HME providers make their locations more inviting for patients. Because the more welcomed a patient feels, the more comfortable he feels with the therapy, and the more comfortable he feels with the therapy, the more likely he will be to stick with it.

That’s good news for ResMed and the patient, but also you, HME provider, because you win the patient’s loyalty and repeat business.

This got to me thinking why some HME providers have been so behind the ball when it comes to retail sales, showrooms, etc. It may seem like a no-brainer, especially in this time of consumer experiences dominated by the likes of Target and apple, but the HME industry was born in the home. That’s where providers prefer to do their work and that’s where patients prefer to receive it, but reduced reimbursement has made that nearly impossible. They’re doing more and more of their work at their locations now, which they’re not used to.

We also visited with Acon Laboratories, which is trying to crack the U.S. market for diabetes monitors and strips. The company has had a presence overseas for several years. It also private labels. Michael Lynch, who works in business development, said something I thought was interesting: While the market for diabetes supplies has been dominated by four manufacturers for what seems like forever, he says they’re losing market and the smaller manufacturers are gaining market share.

Oh, and by the way, it was in the low 70s here today. Not that I’m rubbing it in Theresa and Elizabeth.

Liz Beaulieu