Deja vu

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03/11/2019

It certainly caught the attention of HME providers when CVS announced that CPAP masks would be among the products offered in three new HealthHub concept stores in the Houston area.

In a CNBC story online, there was even a picture of the CPAP masks featured in the stores, namely the ResMed AirFit series.

From what I can tell, providers have a steely resolve in the face of the announcement. Providers are still the ones providing CPAP devices and, therefore, they’re the ones with established relationships with users. They’re also, largely, the ones making sure that users remain compliant and, therefore, are the link to being able to continue their therapies.

They’re also feeling like they’ve been here before.

And they have. Way back in 2012, Philips Respironics had a pilot project with Kroger to provide the company’s masks, with prescriptions, through some of the grocery store’s pharmacies.

(What came of that pilot project? I’ve made inquiries to Philips.)

There’s one fear, however, that providers had about Kroger and they still have today about CVS. Might users be tempted to just pay cash for their supplies from a CVS, especially if they’re happy with their current mask and if they have a high deductible insurance plan?

And if CVS is successful with supplies, what makes anyone think they’ll stop there?

This is essentially the thinking of provider Andrew Trammell, who spoke with Managing Editor Theresa Flaherty for a story on the announcement.

“If you have been using the same CPAP mask for a long time, you really don’t need a whole lot of interaction,” he said. “I think CVS could absolutely be a threat.”

Of course, providers always have threats, whether it’s CVS or the growing number of online providers of not only CPAP supplies but also the devices themselves!

We're running a poll asking providers whether or not the announcement concerns them. Right now, the majority say yes, but the majority also say they think their customers will keep coming back to them. The biggest reason: their expertise.

“Unless CVS plans to employ knowledgeable personnel like an RRT to handle what is usually the No. 1 complaint of CPAP users (mask issues), I believe they’ll soon learn DME companies specialize in this type of service,” wrote in one respondent. “However, a move such as this will temporarily impact the DME world until patients figure this out.”

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