Monday, June 27, 2011

Creating a Successful Retail Operation (Part I)

As the impact of national competitive bidding becomes more evident and more Medicare patients are forced to receive products and services from those who “won” the bid, there will be many new problems. Some providers may be forced out of business and others will find their sales decreasing and must face that reality! Something must be done to replace that volume. Our industry has lived through many changes to the Medicare program, but few have had the potential to affect a company as drastically as what we face today.

Knowing your company has a good reputation in the community, I want to make a suggestion. I have always been a believer in developing more retail cash sales. If this is something you are already doing, consider investing in it further.

To see how this can work effectively, take a look at how companies such as Target and Wal-Mart function. They are pure retail operations. Visit the grocery chains and look carefully at how they display products. Take the time to walk through the retailers on Main Street or in the local shopping malls. I know that many of you have nice showrooms, but how does your company stack up against what solely retail companies offer?

Now, I want to see if I can help you make that even better! My view is that every provider should work to develop more cash sale opportunities and, while doing that, build sturdy niche markets. Remember, a cash sale is when the customer obtains the product they need and money changes hands. No paper work, no CMNs, no prescriptions. You must develop more retail cash sales

Many senior citizens today have discretionary dollars in their pockets and they do not hesitate to spend them for comfort items. Family caregivers, not wishing to institutionalize family members, seek places where they can obtain the products to make their relatives more comfortable, and possibly reduce the amount of time they need to spend with them.

Take the time to study which disciplines in your company produce the highest profits. Sit down with all of your staff and listen to what they have to tell you. These are starting points. Part 2 of series will address how to most effectively do this.

Special Note: If your company is currently a member of your state association, please solicit all your peers to also become members. If each just brings in one new member, it will improve the strength of the association to represent you as onerous legislations are passed and reimbursements from Medicaid change. Do this now! There is too much at stake to sit by and wait. Double the size of your association and stay solvent.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Take Action!

AAHomecare and the state associations have been leading the efforts for all HME providers to bring HR1041 to the floor of Congress and have it passed. This is the most important hurdle our industry has to overcome! The “competitive bidding” legislation is a travesty and was passed by a frightened Congress to show voters they are working to help them (?) and reduce expenses. But just the opposite has happened!

In the first markets chosen, many patients and senior citizens lost their source of products and services. Instead of proving to be effective this legislation has shown to be a disaster. Patients have been driven away from their providers where they had confidence and been serviced for years. Family caregivers no longer had the friendly provider who took good care of their family member. Many patients and families have found they have to travel large distances to obtain their supplies and service. They often have to go to more than one location. This created chaos and concern. Certainly, the beneficiaries do not appreciate that.

I receive messages from various state associations and copies of their e-mails every time they get a representative to sign in support of HR 1041. They work so hard for you. The goal is to get 230 congressmen to commit. You see, there is work is cut out for you. The task is to get more than 50% of the House of Representatives to agree to support the bill. They are getting close and with your efforts our industry will succeed.

Every HME provider has to rally behind the associations. They must get all their employees, customers, family caregivers, physicians, pharmacists and therapists involved as well. Now is the time to work closely to protect not only their future but also the well being of your customers.

Take ACTION now, to secure the future.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Manufacturers' Reps: A Solid Resource for Growing Your Company

Perhaps the most unappreciated member of the HME team of players is the “manufacturer rep” who calls on providers. Their important task is two-fold: assist their customers with marketing ideas and feature the lines they represent.

It is to everyone’s advantage to move merchandise. The sound of a ringing cash register is music to any business owner’s ears! (Play along with that metaphor even though today’s cash registers are mostly all computers.)

I have spoken with several manufacturers’ reps and from what they tell me, I recognize how important they are to you. Please listen to what they offer and study how what they feature will fit into your operation. They will work very closely with you to help your company obtain additional market share.

Hold a sales meeting with all your employees and allow the rep to speak and demonstrate his or her products. They can also make joint calls with your outside sales team if you request it. If you do, please make sure you only are presenting products they represent. Introduce the rep and allow them to make the sales pitch.

Utilize the marketing materials they offer to bring attention to their products and your location. If you have the ability, hold a Saturday morning “Open House.” Advertise that and the rep will sacrifice their morning to work with you.

Appreciate the role of the manufacturers’ rep. Please respect them and make them welcome when they call!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Your State Association is at Work - For YOU!

There is so much activity emanating from the various state associations. I find it fascinating when I see the many roles they fill. All the problems their members may contend with are addressed: Medicaid, support from their state senators and representatives, and advising how to cope with local legislation.

How many providers know which congressmen are on committees that affect their businesses? Your state association director knows who sits on them and can advise members whom to contact.

Little things such as no license for out-of-state providers to solicit business can hurt you. Sales made on the web and state tax not collected may be a small item, but it can also affect your company. Is every provider aware of how much effort is made by their associations to fight competitive bidding? Also, how aware are you of Accountable Care Organizations? Your state association is going to monitor this very carefully.

There are many other programs that develop, difficulties to resolve, lobbying, writing, telephoning and making visits all are constantly performed by your state association. I am amazed by what is accomplished by them and shocked by the fact that there still are providers who do not belong. Cost of membership is a normal business expense. The ROI on that investment is that your company can continue to stay in business.

If you do not belong to your state association, please join now! If you need their address, contact me ( Every HME provider must support his or her state association! The more members they have, the more efficient they can become. Make your voice heard and give them the means they need to fight for you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Work-worthy Idea

Jobs! No, not Steve Jobs! Real jobs. Jobs that sustain a community are what I am talking about. Helping people find work so that they can earn money sounds so simple. Yet, it is not! The economic outlook is certainly worrisome. Being employed is no longer a given fact and there are so many people who are already out of work.

Perhaps HME providers can be the forefront to launch changes in their communities. I believe that our industry has that ability! Both the largest employers and the largest taxpayers in our country have always been small businesses. The HME industry is the classical description of a small business.

I read an article in one of the magazines I receive about two companies, both HME providers, each doing about the same annual volume. They were so similar that they could be described as twins. As a consequence of the changing economy, each found sales going down and so were their profits.

Provider “A” made a decision that he had to reduce his payroll. After a very careful examination of his operation, the decision was made to lay off two employees.

Provider “B” did not want to lose any members of his staff. The loyalty of his employees to the company was why it flourished. He spoke with two of them and they jointly came to the decision that they, who knew much about the operation, would go on the road.

In the first three months, as these two “sales” people were out extolling the virtues of the company, things stopped going down and then the pot started to boil. New customers began coming in because the referral sources, nursing services and doctors all were suggesting going to provider “B” for their needs. A very positive result was that they needed another pair of hands in the showroom and another driver. His business began once again to expand. Two new jobs were added in their community!

The moral of this is to use the strength you currently have, that is the strength of your current employees. Work with them, because, they too, will also survive when the company stays solvent and grows.

Creating new jobs will come about as enthusiasm spreads with all your employees and when HME providers set an example, others will follow the leader. Yes, providing new jobs can be a multi-faceted way to go!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Register Now for Medtrade 2011

Registration is now open for Medtrade 2011. It will take place October 24 – 27 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

As a special offer, show producers have announced “early-bird” pricing that includes:
• A $255 rate for the Pre-show Seminars that includes free registration for the Medtrade Educational Conference and Medtrade Expo
• A $99 rate for the Medtrade Educational Conference that includes a free pass to the Medtrade Spring Expo
• A $25 rate for the Medtrade Expo

For detailed information on the conference and pre-show seminars, including course descriptions, speakers and continuing education opportunities, attendees can visit

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Question and a Challenge

Recently, there was a most intriguing article in HME News about competitive bidding. Can we assist Medicare and help them find an alternative that can possibly save $20 billion dollars in the next 10 years?

When I say “we,” it includes every HME provider. The problem is it is almost impossible to get every provider on board for support. If reimbursements fall any lower, there will be very few providers left. This will lead to a tremendous loss of tax dollars and a great increase in unemployment.

We are all aware the greatest difficulty Medicare has to contend with is fraud and abuse! I am afraid that the money being stolen may be much more than the $20 billion they want to save.

A unified voice from our industry must be heard. This effort will also be much more effective if every provider asks his clientele to become involved. After all, they too, will suffer greatly if the loss of dollars is not stopped. Every HME provider must, and I really mean must, join his or her state DME association. Their support will be to see to it that every congressman in each state will be aware of what you and their constituents are asking them to accomplish. It is amazing what the state associations can do! They need you to work with them.

AAHomecare has made the industry voice heard loud and clear in Washington. They are “icing on the cake” when supported by the state associations. Working together this effectiveness cannot be measured. Please be sure you sign up ASAP because this battle must be won NOW or it will be too late!

Don't You Just Love a Good Challenge?

I have always responded to a challenge and now I hope that every HME provider will do the same.

Both the state and national associations have been working as hard as possible to get HR 1041 through Congress. They are, at the same time, addressing and responding to what happens in each state (legislation, Medicaid, taxes, etc,) that can affect their members. The efforts by the associations have been extremely effective. While doing all of the above, they also work with and for their members. They must respond to every query they receive, provide all material requested and are in every sense of the word they become a “partner” with each member.

I have a goal to accomplish via these blogs. It is to convince 99% of the HME providers to become dues paying members of their state and national associations. When I see how powerful and influential major associations like the AMA, AHA and the national drug manufacturers have become, I look at our industry and I say “yes, we can do the same!”

So here is my challenge. I ask that every HME provider who currently belongs to their state and national association solicit every other provider in their area and ask that they join in the fray. Any providers who are not currently members must get on board ASAP.

Get on the telephone, explain, and be sure you are certain they understand why you are calling. They need to become active. They must be aware what can happen if they are forced out of business. They must realize that their families, employees and most importantly, customers and family caregivers are at risk. There should be no hesitation. Can we reach the goal of 99% of all providers joining in this effort? Yes, I believe we can!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Please Get Involved!

Just a brief update on some of the happenings in our battle with Goliath (aka Medicare). I have been receiving reports from many of the state associations and AAHomecare.

First, the good thing they report: Despite the gloom and doom attitude of a few recalcitrant dealers, the voice of our industry is being heard. There is so much activity by the state and national associations asking their elected congressmen to support HR 1041. If all their efforts to get this passed succeed, it would repeal the competitive bid program. That is also how important your efforts can be!

Now, the problem I wish to bring to everyone’s attention: There are many other bills that have go from committee to Congress. When the bill passes the first hurdle, the House, it has to go to the Senate for their approval. This is a very difficult process and requires a great deal of work by the state and the national associations.

Every HME provider has his or her future at stake. Every senior citizen, their family caregivers and all patients must also understand that they too have much at risk. When we rally all of these folks to assist in the battle, we will succeed.

To accomplish this I am asking every HME provider to participate. I am repeating my message again, it is that vital! If your company is not currently a dues paying member of the associations become one now. If your company already is a member, please contact every provider or dealer in town and ask that they become a participant on this gargantuan fight together with you and the associations for salvation. Our industry will face a dire future if these pending legislations do not get through Congress. Don’t wait another minute, do it now.

It's Time to be Heard

Our Congressmen speak with loud voices seeking headlines. They will do anything they can to appease a few splinter groups for votes. Yet the largest block of voters, senior citizens, are really never thought about. How do they want to reform Medicare and what is the role of the senior citizen?

There are many layers of the healthcare industry that depend on Medicare for income. On the very bottom of this list is the HME provider. We are the smallest and have the fewest dollars to be sufficiently heard. The hospitals, drug manufacturers, physicians and others are all very formidable. They provide oodles of dollars and so their voices are heard. Ours are not!

The newspapers write about the few scandals at the bottom the ladder (it happens). But when a major hospital chain was found guilty of the biggest fraud ever perpetrated and then had to pay largest penalty, were the legislations changed? No!

The wizards decided that it would make good headlines if the small HME providers had to submit a bid to be in the loop. What a farce! Did any politicians speak with the senior citizens and others covered by Medicare to see what they wanted? No!

What to do? Every HME provider must become a member of their state and national associations. They will provide you with the tools and show you how to mobilize your customers, patients and their families to protect what they have. By working with the associations and your clientele you will be able the show Congress where the money is being siphoned out of the system. The role of the senior citizen is to become part of your voice. They vote, they care and they understand! They must become your partners in this effort. In reality they may have more at risk then you.

Yes, every HME provider and dealer must work together with the senior citizens. Then all will exist and flourish. Tempus fugit!

If you do not belong to your state and the national associations, please get one the phone STAT and enlist. If you are a member, please contact all your associates and peers and to make sure they get on board at once. There may not be a tomorrow. What is at stake? Your future, that of your customers, as well as that of our industry.