Monday, August 29, 2011

HME Heroes

I have been sitting in front of my TV for a whole day watching what Hurricane Irene has done and am fascinated and saddened by what Mother Nature can do. The damage created by wind and rain is far beyond my ability to comprehend.

We can build space ships that fly men to the moon and build a space station circling the world manned by astronauts, but we cannot control nature.

Hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, fires and floods are happenings that occur beyond our control and we must cope with them. These are not of our doing and there is very little we can do about them. However, when this happens all of us gather together and work with one another to salvage what remains and repair much of what was lost.

I offer a special tribute to the HME providers who see to it that their patients are always protected during these critical days. How many cylinders of oxygen are delivered during a blizzard or a flood? Somehow, the need of the patient has always been supreme.

My congratulations to all of these unsung heroes! I hope that our congressmen and legislators are aware of their efforts. There are no rewards asked and providers accept this as simply their responsibility. I hope the policymakers will think of this when they try to reduce reimbursements!

New Opportunities

Often, it makes sense to take a look back to some of the successful programs you or your colleagues have offered in the past. A review may show you that many problems do not change and they present an opportunity to address them again.

In the past, I have written about obesity in the United States. In MedPage Today published on August 5, senior editor John Gever published a few interesting comments. He indicated that if the current “obesity epidemic” continues by year 2030 half the adult population would be obese.

I know of an entrepreneur, who has both a pharmacy and DME, who put together a group of nurses, physicians, dieticians and several of his preferred vendors. He planned a “Lose a Few Pounds” day in his showroom and asked them to participate. It was arranged so that everyone who entered was given a card to record what he or she discovered. Each entrant was weighed and the weight recorded. There was a nurse taking BP and another doing blood glucose testing. Those who attended were thrilled see have a chance to have these vitals tested.

This opened the door to many new sales, including bathroom scales and BP monitors. Everyone had a chance to speak to the manufacturer reps, receive samples and literature, and an occasional discount certificate. All the appropriate products were displayed with large price signs.

The provider sent press releases to the local newspapers, radio and TV stations. An announcement was mailed to every physician, local school and church. It was a lot of work but the end results were such that it was repeated annually. All I am suggesting is that you think outside the box. What did you do previously? What do you see being done in other industries? And most important: What can you do now?

You can find the “partners” you need by attending Medtrade. Be sure when you make the rounds on the showroom floor you seek new OPPORTUNITIES. They are there!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bits and Pieces

There is so much going on that I would like to share. Here is a potpourri of it to review:

I received a very nice report from Mike Hamilton. The ADMEA convention held at the beach was well attended. The attendees heard from experts like Miriam Lieber, Eric Kline, Alexandra Bennewith, Ty Bellow, Wayne Grau, Peggy Walker, Kelly Riley and Jodie Stogner. Wow !!!

This is why I have asked each member of every state association to solicit another. It is fantastic to have the opportunity to hear speakers of that caliber who bring with them so much good advice. Please recognize how important it is to support your associations.

Is your company up-to-date for your revalidation requirements? If you had revalidated prior to 3/5/2011 you only have 60 days. Tempus fugit.

Good reading: Professor M.K. Sparrow (Harvard Kennedy School) researched and published “License to Steal: How Fraud Bleeds America’s Health Care System.” I wonder how many of our elected Senators and Representatives have taken the time to read this? Next time you communicate with any of your legislators please recommend that as “good reading.”

Another reminder! At Medtrade in Atlanta you will find all the opportunities and ideas to continue to expand and increase profits. The exhibitors are all preparing for you.

This year it is more important than ever to get there early. Bring as many staff as you can to attend the multitude of lectures. A provider told me he always comes with several members of his team. Their task is to take notes and then make a presentation to the company. The enthusiasm they return with and how they convert the talk they heard has more than paid off.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Your State Association and What It Does for You

As an HME provider, have you ever recognized the role of your state association? They work amazingly hard to provide support for you and your business.

This past week, I have had the good fortune of speaking to half dozen executive directors and I am amazed at what I heard. If you only receive a summary of the state and national legislations, both pending and in place, they have earned their money. But you get so much more! They speak to the legislators on your behalf. They know the health legislative assistants in all the offices. Via e-mail and telephone they send your messages to them. There is no way of calculating everything they do for the very small fee you pay for their services.

I have received copies of some of the messages that members receive from their state associations. Receiving updated and current information is another service which cannot be obtained anywhere else. How much is this worth to you?

Politicians thrive on votes from their electorate. They must have them or they cannot be elected or remain in office. The ability that you and your employees have to influence your customers, patients and family caregivers is immense. Your state association provides you with the tools and support necessary to do this.

I have attended many state DME association meetings. The speakers are always informative. This is a central place to meet some of the salespeople who service you. It is also the arena to meet with your peers. What an opportunity to locate friends, share good ideas and all work together for the common good!

At Medtrade this year, there will be a State Association Pavilion. Stop by to see them and tell them how much you appreciate what they do for you. Bring any peers who do not belong and see to it that they sign on at Medtrade.

Monday, August 22, 2011

What You Can Do... Now

A lot of HME providers are wondering what they can do to survive. It is important to remember that this downturn in the economy will soon disappear. If you will look back over the last 50 years, you will see that these have come and gone cyclically and that most of the providers have survived. Those who did not panicked.

Via these blogs I have been saying not to be afraid and maintain a good attitude. Today, HME providers have many good assets and strengths they can use and will ride out this current recession. Although the stock market is on a downward path it, will swing back to normal.

So rather than bring out the sackcloth and ashes, it is time to become more aggressive. There are many golden opportunities for OTC cash sales. Senior citizens today are more affluent than ever before. They have the discretionary funds to purchase comfort items. Family caregivers are doing everything they can to maintain their fathers and mothers at home.

There are a number of paths you can follow.

First, work with your preferred vendors! They understand the dilemma and will provide you with many tools since it is “win-win” for both of you.

Also, there will be many opportunities to discover new means of success at Medtrade 2011. I have spoken with many exhibitors and they have promised there will be more opportunities there for you. See how many of your key personnel can be spared to attend and register now.

This year it is important to attend. That is “what you can do.”

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sharing Information, Working Together

One of the benefits I receive from some readers are the articles of interest they send me to read. HME providers are not alone as we all wonder if cutting funds for Medicare will help solve our problems. There is no doubt that with the rate dollars are being siphoned out of the system they will soon be gone!

An associate sent me a copy of a guest column that appeared in the Taunton Daily Gazette. The author, Diane DiGiorgi, opened her column with a very simple statement: “Most seniors would prefer to live at home rather than in a nursing facility.” She did an excellent job in explaining some of the benefits and some of the problems with the Medicare system, including personal care, housekeeping, meals, necessary medical equipment and so forth.

Last month I received a copy of an article in MedPage Today by Emily Walker. She pointed out there had to be improvements for better home care, stating that “not everyone is suited to provide home care.” I am aware that a family caregiver when trained by a professional can accomplish a great deal!

As an active participant in providing supplies, prescriptions and service to home care beneficiaries for many years, there is a simple answer to these problems! We must stop the dishonest elements in the system. This is a major dilemma.

Today senior citizens and patients wish to remain at home. There are the family caregivers. The system does not realize the role of the family caregiver. They do not want Mom or Dad to be institutionalized. When the patient is at home, the family remains close and good care is provided. How valuable is this? Remember, family caregivers are not reimbursed!
Home tele-health is an option for some. Using this, the patient can report vital signs as often as necessary to their physician or nursing service. With this the cost of a patient remaining at home compared a nursing home or other facility is tremendous.

When you read any articles of interest, please forward them to me and I can share them with all ( This year at Medtrade in Atlanta (10/24-10/27), many answers to this challenge and many others will be addressed. So, please plan now to be there. It is an opportunity you cannot miss.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Creating a Successful Retail Operation (Part IV)

There are many sources a HME provider can tap into for new ideas to build and expand cash sales. There are no reasons why everyone cannot follow the leaders and become more aggressive: same as a supermarket, WalMart or Target store. What they do is feature their promotion items and pair them with related products. You receive a several page advertisement from all of these at least once a week with your newspaper delivery. Study what they do carefully because you, too, can do the same.

Like everyone else, I carefully review the specials and then look at all the other products. When I speak with other seniors, they all seem to do the same. Unfortunately, this is a far too an expensive program for the average HME provider, but there are many other approaches to build additional OTC cash sales.

In Part 1 of this series I spoke about becoming more active in your community, such as participation in the Chamber of Commerce and civic associations such as Rotary or Kiwanis. This is a is good way to keep your name recognized. Working with a church or a school PTA or offering to give lectures on care in the home, care for an invalid or an infant is another step to develop new OTC cash sales. A provider I know said he gives classes at local schools and churches. He gains several new customers each time he does it.

In Part 2 it was suggested you take advantage of your preferred vendors. They, same as you, want to increase sales and are willing to give much help. They can show you many OTC cash sale products! Whatever it takes to bring people into your showroom must be done. It is so satisfying when you hold an Open House in your showroom together with one of your preferred vendors and your customers all say thank you.

In Part 3 we touched on continuing education. This is one of the major benefits HME providers earn when attending Medtrade. The conference sessions and speakers make Medtrade as important as attending a university - the difference being that you and the members of your staff can attend them and then bring home the handouts. This will allow you to put the great ideas you heard to work.

In this Part 4, I want you to understand why it is so important to belong to your state DME association. The answer is: If you do not, you may find yourself closing the door to your company! That is a fact of life! The state associations lead the fight to allow you to maintain and keep what you have worked so hard to develop, your own company.

Without the funds you pay for dues, as well as the support you can give to their efforts on your behalf, all their work will be for naught. Your staff will lose their jobs, your family will lose the income, and your patients and family caregivers will lose your services and care. That is what is at stake!

Pick up the phone if you are not already a member and get on board.

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.

A Good Attitude

When I speak with HME providers or vendors, it is often about what can done to flourish during these trying times. To my very pleasant surprise it looks like everyone anticipates things turning around rather quickly. So do I!

Doom and gloom are slowly drifting away and being replaced by enthusiasm. This is what we need. Good attitude and the willingness to put extra effort daily.

Several state associations have already held their annual meetings. A few more are pending and one thing I hear seems to be true. The providers who participate are the ones whose companies will always grow, who will continue to be successful and who always work hard for the profession. They are the providers who have a good attitude.

My concern is for the others. These are the providers who feel that paying membership dues to belong to their state association or to AAHomecare is not a necessity. They feel like it is an unneeded expense. How wrong they are. Their accountants will prove to them that this cost is part of a normal business operation expense.

As a “Good Will Ambassador” for Medtrade, I want to meet each state director and see what we can do to be of help. If you will be holding a meeting during Medtrade perhaps I can to stop by and say hello to your members.

When I began these blogs I asked that they be distributed to the members of each state DME association. My request to all current members was simply please invite the dealers and providers you know to join the association to work together for every dealer to succeed. I hope there was some success!

I look forward to Medtrade in October. I look forward with a great deal of excitement to see many friends, make new ones and share in the excitement. I want to see exhibitors and providers teaming together to find new opportunities.

I would like to see you and all association members be there with a good attitude. Amen!

The Medtrade Expo, Cash Sales and Solutions

Attention! This is a very special message I am sending to each of the Medtrade exhibitors.

HME providers are going to flock to Atlanta this year to attend Medtrade, all with one major goal: to seek new strategies for success. One thing they are looking for are new OTC cash sale products!

Providers who are proactive know they should start becoming more aggressive and realize now is the time to restructure their marketing program. Entrepreneurs are actively seeking new products, better prices and combined advertising programs with the full cooperation of their vendors.

The Medtrade Expo at the Georgia World Congress Center on October 25-27 is where this will happen. Every exhibitor should come prepared to work closely together with the attendees. This can be a “win-win” situation.

Yes, our industry can be a part of the United States’ return to normal. Together, providers and manufacturers can build sales and create additional jobs. When providers and manufacturers begin a very strong joint promotion for OTC cash sale items good things will happen. Word of mouth from one senior citizen to another and to family caregivers and friends is a very effective tool.

Our country needs someone to start the ball rolling in the correct direction. By working together, we can make a difference and it will start at Medtrade. Be there!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Remembering David T. Williams

Last month our industry lost a giant. A gentleman who did so much for every HME provider passed away. Alfred, Lord Tennyson once described death as: “God’s finger touched him, and he slept.” David T. Williams, only 62 years old, died at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio July 6, another victim of Multiple Sclerosis.

I count as one of my blessings that I knew David at least 35 years. It is so difficult to report so many things in which he left his mark. I know that many of you will also remember David and his contributions. For more than a dozen years David was the director of government relations for Invacare.

Some years back, David described his experiences in a most encouraging biography he titled: “Battling the Beast Within – Success in Living with Adversity.” This should be read by anyone fighting a debilitating disease. In his words, they will discover that one does not ever have to give up. There are many reasons to fight and still maintain a level head.

David worked for every HME dealer. He worked for every one of your patients and their family caregivers as well. David competed in wheelchair games and races of many types. He coached a team for the National Junior Games and they established a record as seven-year winners.

I had the privilege of traveling with David at AAHomecare fly-ins. He was more than a lobbyist. Senators and representatives heard and understood what he asked. They listened to him and promised to react positively.

I doubt that we will ever see another giant like David T. Williams. He will always be remembered. What he brought to and did for DME/HME will always be felt. Thank you David.

Turn Fear into Success

This month has been tough in terms of financial stability. On August 4, the stock market crashed more than 500 points - 4.31%! Everybody stopped shopping and stopped spending money. On October 19, 1987 the stock market fell by 508 points, which then was 22.6%. Far too many people pushed the panic button at that time and that led to a serious recession. Don’t let fear be your guide.

If you look back you will see this is only a warning to change how you run your company. President F.D. Roosevelt, addressing the depression then summed things up very nicely: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

I always remember what a pharmacist and DME entrepreneur in Vermont did at that time. He ran a major sale. There were very large signs in the windows of both his pharmacy and DME showroom. They said “BE PREPARED.”

He offered bedpans and urinals at a special low price for one week. I no longer remember the prices, but they are insignificant. What is important was how many new sales were developed and how many new customers came in. I recall seeing an island in each location with both bedpans and urinals stacked up high. When the sales period ended he had sold many cases of each. Nearly everyone who walked in purchased both. This was his answer to that precipitous market decline.

You are a professional and an entrepreneur. Your DME/HME company has an excellent reputation! You have a family to feed, your employees also do, but most important is you have a large number of customers and patients who need you.

Look again to your assets. You are the proprietor of a successful company that has concerned employees and loyal customers. They can guide your company and help prevent a recession. Show the way in your community and all the other entrepreneurs will follow suit.

Do not allow fear to influence what you do! I remember how Adlai Stevenson addressed fear: “I feel like a small boy who stubbed his toe; he was too old to cry, and it hurt too much to laugh.”

Our country has always worked itself out of any problem and will do so again. Start the ball rolling! Be a leader, not a follower. Have no fear!

Medtrade Magic

This year the Medtrade Expo will be like the preverbal Christmas tree for most HME providers. There will not be any lumps of coal in your stocking! Not at all! You will travel through row after row of vendors waiting for you on the showroom floor. They all have the “goodies” providers seek!

Imagine that it is Christmas morning when children get out of bed early and dash to the Christmas tree to see what they will discover. They will look at the fireplace where they hung their stockings. Joy and anticipation rules as they open the gifts. Their hearts beat a little faster, their smiles become a little brighter and it is so good!

When you attend Medtrade, what will you discover, what will you find?

The vendors and exhibitors bring with them many gifts for you in the form of new ideas and products and opportunities to build more cash sales. An OTC cash sale will be the greeting of the day.

Together, with the exhibitors, you will find new and exciting programs. You will be guided to marketing with a great deal of enthusiasm. Recognize that every vendor and exhibitor has the exact same goal you have, to earn more market share and to increase sales and profits. Medtrade will be a “win-win” program more than ever for the vendors and the providers.

Make your trip to Atlanta be like a beautiful Christmas morning! Bring with you as many members of your staff possible to share in this very special Medtrade. The bonus you will get will be a surge in new sales and profits. Bring home these new programs! Make 2011 the best ever with the tools that the vendors at Medtrade Fall will put into your hands. The expo is October 25-27 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Be there!

Get a Fresh Start at Medtrade

Yesterday is history! It is already tomorrow. Yes, tempus fugit. So what I am suggesting is to do the following now, there is no longer any time to wait: You must make a “fresh start.” Before you begin, please think about all of the successful projects you did while also considering those which were not as effective as you hoped they would be.

The biggest hurdle to overcome is threatened by CMS and Congress. Understand that they require sufficient capital to fulfill all the demands they face. Team up with your allies to fight this, the state DME/HME and national associations! With your support they will help bring about changes.

Next, carefully review the programs which worked, and those that did not. Expand the successful ones and repeat them as often as practical. As for the others which did not provide the needed return, study what you did and make the changes needed to make them work.

Your staff’s role is to keep the company profitable and growing. Their help is invaluable when making these key decisions. I have spoken to dealers in many parts of the United States and invariably am told how much information is sitting with your teams.

Now, it is time to plan to participate in the most important show ever, the Medtrade Expo. Despite these trying times there will be more than 600 companies to visit. These exhibitors are coming armed with new ideas, new programs and new products.

Yes, there are additional benefits. You will find available more than 120 conferences, lectures and workshops covering many topics. They will describe many new opportunities to help you continue on the road to success. You will be able to speak with the state associations, the national associations, visit the buying groups and make plans for the future.

Register now for a fresh start at Medtrade 2011, which takes place October 24-27, Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. THE ROI WILL BE WORTH IT!