A nerd travels to HME Land and discovers the definition of a sale

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05/24/2010

I saw something last week that I'd never seen in all my 13 years at HME News: a highway billboard advertising AdvaCare Home Services, an HME company in Bridgeville, Pa.

I spied the sign while driving from the Pittsburgh airport (I flew in from HME News' international headquarters in Yarmouth, Maine) to the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers (PAMS). I can't remember exactly what the billboard said, but it was something like "Respiratory Therapists on duty 24/7." As I passed the billboard, I got a little bit excited (yes, I'm a nerd) and said out loud to my self, "Hey, that's cool. This must be HME Land."

In some ways, that little encounter sums up the challenges HME providers face during these days of increased regulatory oversight and decreased reimbursement: Adapt or watch your business dwindle away. That sounds a little bit simplistic, I know, but it's the truth and it was the overriding message that emerged from PAMS' annual meeting.

Providers need to strengthen their core competencies, diversify their payer and product mix, use technology to become more efficient, boost cash sales, reach customers through billboards and other marketing strategies.

MED Group CEO Bill Elliott said he expects the next five years to separate HME providers into two groups: winners and losers. The winners will adapt. The losers won't.

Here are a few more tidbits from the PAMS meeting:

* President Obama has given CMS marching orders to reduce improper claims so expect a major increase in Medicare audits. "As someone who has spent a large portion of his professional career in Washington, I have never seen a top-down message this strong," said attorney Mike Bell. "We are going to see more bounty hunters in the future."

* HME sales people must be persistent, said Susan McGinnis, corporate sales trainer for Philips Respironics, and here's why: Eighty percent of the all sales occur after the fifth closing attempt; 50% of sales people make only one call on a client; only 10% of sales people make more than five calls.

* Definition of a sale: A transfer of enthusiasm from the sales person to the customer.

* PAMS Executive Director John Shirvinsky on competitive bidding: "I have never seen a more anti-business program: a program designed to put the majority of an industry of out business."

* How can American HomePatient and Rotech be in such precarious financial health and still continue to operate? You got me, and PAMS speaker Don Davis, too. "Neither looks like it should make it to the next quarter," said Davis, who has a long background in corporate finance, "but they do."

Mike Moran