Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Talking Politics

A lesson I learned many years ago was never to discuss politics or religion. These always lead to heated discussions. But, today, our industry faces some very serious challenges and politics must be addressed.

Can providers continue to function if they have to price their services based on competitive bids? Yes they can, but with great difficulty. This was the reason behind my recommending not allowing Medicare to become more than 20% of your total sales. As I said, accept all Medicare but be sure to increase of your volume with over-the-counter sales or other disciplines as that grows.

HME providers have the ability to affect votes. Votes are what keep politicians in office. Your patients, family caregivers, customers and other professionals all must be made to comprehend the problems. What you can do is to keep a friend of health care in office. This is something you must do. Your business is at stake!

The products and care that you provide should be sufficient for people to listen to your advice. When providers were asked to get letters from their clientele in the past to alert Congress to a problem, the response was amazing. What should be done now is to alert voters. You have to ask that they do vote (lethargy keeps them away) and then suggest, as best you can, which candidates they should support.

I ask that every HME provider contact the candidates to determine which of them understand what the situation is providing health care. When you know where they stand, then give your support to those who will be on the team. Candidates have to be made aware that your company and clientele can influence the vote! You have the ability to do this! Remember, if they do not receive votes they will not be in office.

If you have had any experiences along these lines, please let me know. I can be reached at (877) 553-6127. I would also like to speak with you at Medtrade this year.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Reduce Dependence on Medicare

At the last Medtrade, I spoke to more than a dozen providers to determine just how much they depend on a flow of dollars from Medicare. They told me the percentage of dollars from this ranged from 20% to a wee bit over 40%. This appears to be the normal for most providers.

In the past, I have suggested that HME providers keep the percentage of Medicare and Medicaid dollars to about 20% of their total cash flow. When I say this, I do not recommend that one cease to accept third party sales, but providers must be sure they build each of their other disciplines to increase total volume.

There are many opportunities, which can be investigated. The best place to do this is at Medtrade. Attending the lectures will open up many ideas. You will meet lots of vendors who are offering new programs. They are at Medtrade to find more distribution centers. Your company can build a new cash flow by offering their products. Study them.

It is also just as important to spend time with all the vendors who have been supporting you. Learn about any new items they have and the special programs they may be offering. Be sure you say “thank you” to them for all the help they have given your company.

Build new disciplines and find new services. Increase your OTC cash sales!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Do They Know How to Find You? Publicity Matters

There are times when you have to get out and blow your own horn. What I am saying is make it known throughout the community who you are and what your company does. Invite everyone to pay you a visit.
With the economy being rather shallow these days and with many people seeking jobs, it is important that they know all about your company. There are many people looking for supplies but afraid to spend the precious few dollars. The major marketers who “save” their clients many dollars when they make a purchase have brought about this lack of confidence. But, that is all they do. Do they really save them any real money? What you can do for your clientele far exceeds what they can!

Too many citizens seem to forget about what a HME provider or an independent pharmacist does for them. Tell them! Blow your own horn!

I have suggested often that you send mailings. Take advertisements in the local newspaper and the radio station and even on television. I have spoken to many providers at Medtrade about their promotions. It appears that many of the more successful operators offer one program in common. They all hold an “Open House” periodically in their showroom.

They make it a point to have a local practitioner (doctor, nurse or therapist) come and speak to the attendees. They also invite one or two of their manufacturers to man a display and hand out literature. These “Open House” days set your company miles above the chain and discount marketers.

This earns your company the publicity it needs.

Telemedicine: Have You Considered the Opportunity?

It appears that home telemedicine, or tele-health, has not yet reached the average HME provider. Perhaps this is because not enough providers have had the opportunity to learn about this as a new opportunity.

Home telemedicine; what is it? The prefix “tele” means at, over, from, or to a distance. “Home” means being able to provide vital health information from ones domicile to the physician, nurse, practitioner, therapist or family caregiver. Every patient, every senior citizen who can be monitored and treated at home, not in an institution, is a candidate for telemedicine.

Believe it or not, home tele-health came about because President John F. Kennedy, when he gave the goal to NASA of landing an American on the moon, opened up this opportunity. Telemedicine was devised as the means to check the astronauts while traveling in space.

This ability for health professionals to check their patients without having to make a visit (e.g.: home health agencies) or going to an office away from their home is very important. The cost savings and improvement in care are just two of the many benefits. It is estimated that home telemedicine can grow into a $20 billion industry.

Is there a role for HME providers? Yes! The opportunity for your company to become the center of activity is huge. But, it requires some effort on your part. You have to learn who are the manufacturers and how they are currently marketing their equipment. One of the goals for this year's Medtrade is to invite some home telemedicine companies to participate. A network, emanating from your office, starting with the patient sending their vital signs to their physician and other health care providers, with the equipment you will supply is immeasurable.

The major manufacturers of this equipment can either build their own sales force (expensive) or work with a HME dealer (practical) to provide and monitor this equipment.

I hope that you will be able to participate as a home telemedicine source. If you would like additional information do not hesitate to contact me at (877) 553-5127 or shelly.prial@att.net. Get on board now!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Happy Birthday, SSA

On August 14, Americans celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Social Security Act. In that year, 1935, the United States was very slowly recovering to a normal economy from the stock market crash of 1929. Those years are remembered as “the Great Depression.”

There was a very long way the economy had to go. The country faced many unanticipated problems, one being the drought of the “Dust Bowl.” I grew up in this era and can vividly recall seeing people standing on long lines to get a package for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner from a local brewery. I can remember seeing men and an occasional woman selling fruit on street corners.

One of the purposes behind the passing of the Social Security Act was to say to the average working person that they would be able to have a retirement. When one reached the ripe old age of 65 they could sign on for the benefits.

Every working person, from that day forward, saw that money was withheld from his or her salary and that was in addition to what the employer matched. There were exceptions, government (state and federal) employees did not qualify and there were several others. The Social Security Act was passed to provide many additional benefits: Old Age Assistance, Aid to the Blind, Aid to Dependent Children, Maternal and Child Health, Crippled Children, Child Welfare, and Public Health.

What was accomplished at that time was that many citizens felt that the yoke around their neck, poverty, was loosened and that they would now be able to age gracefully and earn the right to be able to retire.

It is now 75 years later. This was a big turning point in our country. It was one of the major factors in bringing the country back to normal. All I want to say is “Happy Birthday” to the 1935 Social Security Act.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Manners Matter - On the Telephone

It is very interesting when in speaking to providers about how they and their employees answer their telephone. It appears that many seem to feel that this is really not an issue.

The voice calling in is usually that of a patient or family caregiver who is seeking some type of help. It also may be a physician or a therapist calling in a request for information about one of their patients. Whether the caller is looking to place an order or just to ask a question, they would appreciate knowing to whom they are speaking.

When they dial your number and the phone is answered what they should hear is: “Good morning, Jones Homecare Supplies, Joseph speaking.” It is important that they hear a friendly greeting, the company identified and the name of who picked up the phone. All identified in one sentence.

The telephone is a key business tool and as such it is necessary to minimize as much non-productive time as possible. I realize that many of the patients calling in have been with your company for a long period of time. They have earned a few moments of “how are you, etc.” That said, it is critical to get to the reason they are on the other end of the line as quickly possible.

I recall hearing a speaker at Medtrade discussing “business manners.” When and how to address a customer on the showroom floor, how to answer the telephone correctly and how to communicate via e-mail. I suggest that at one of your staff meetings you open up this topic and insist all your employees know how important telephone manners are.