As I touched on last week in my MedTrade blog, the medical supply world is changing at the pace of a bullet. We are currently hiring two new team members here at Howard’s this week (click to apply) and I love talking to potential team members for our team. We have an intensive interview process to join our team. For someone to join our team, he/she must go through five different interviews! Unfortunately this makes it slower for us to hire, especially when we need bodies immediately to help answer the phone. The good news is when we do hire someone, we end up with team members that stay at Howard’s for the long haul.
Yesterday while interviewing a potential new team member who had also interviewed at one of our competitors, she mentioned to me that our competitor does not do 24-hour oxygen patients, only nocturnal. I want to lay our cards on the table here to bring you into the world of leading a DME. If you or a family member is an oxygen patient, the store that supplies the medical supply is reimbursed anywhere between $90-210/month for the base concentrator depending on insurance and allowable. This base fee ONLY covers the concentrator which is the machine that makes oxygen in your home.
For our patients that only need oxygen at night (we call these patients nocturnal use only), this is all he/she needs. However, over time, most patients move into a category where they need oxygen 24/7 and in these instances also need portable oxygen if they go to church, to the store, or do anything out of the house. For these patients they would need either a portable oxygen concentrator (battery operated poc, see picture below) or aluminum tanks to run their errands.
All insurances also reimburse for portable oxygen. There is a major problem though and this should concern everyone in the industry: PORTALBE OXYGEN IS ONLY REINBURSED AT BETWEEN $25-60/MONTH!
The reason I write this in all caps is the reimbursement for portable is below almost all supplier’s cost. The way companies like Howard’s and other respiratory providers stay in business is we make a higher profit on the home concentrator unit which makes up for our patients we lose money on with our POC’s and tanks. At Howard’s , we also emphasize efficiency and try to predict which patients needs oxygen ahead of time. Last, we also go the extra mile with a lot of patients until they learn how to use their oxygen efficiently. We had one patient two years in a row need emergency oxygen delivered to their house on Easter. We waived the emergency charge because this was a planning error but we wanted this patient to be able to attend their local family gathering.
Here are a few things you need to know about home and portable oxygen:
Even if you only need nocturnal oxygen, make sure your supplier you work with does both nocturnal as well as portable oxygen. Even if you are nocturnal use now, there may be a day in the future when you need 24/7 service and you need to make sure your supplier can take care of your needs.
Make sure your supplier has a respiratory therapist on staff. Some suppliers make you call into a RT out of the area and do a phone consultation. Howard’s has two RT’s on staff and sometimes one needs more than a phone consultation and a RT needs to listen to breathing sounds and report back to your physician.
Make sure your oxygen company has a 24/7 number they attend to after hours. We do! Even test it (preferably at 10pm and not 2am) to see if they actually answer the phone like they say they will. If you do this, tell them you read my blog as I or one of my team members will be picking up the phone.
It’s that time of year again. Our semi-annual trade show in Vegas where all the business leaders who run medical supplies gather in Las Vegas to network and look at the newest products. I want to share some of my insights from the trip.
I always like seeing new products. Three of my favorites:
Evolution walkers: We have carried these for over a year now. These are the BEST walkers on the market and they are priced this way too. For the person who doesn’t want to deal with the generic Medicare walker and has the money to spend, this is the way to go. We call them European walkers because those in Europe know how to get around and appreciate walking. We have three different kinds of these walkers at our store so try both the Medicare walker and this one out and you’ll see what we are talking about!
Sunrise Medical who handles all of our lightweight wheelchair products has a new no-insurance wheelchair. Howard’s is the exclusive dealer here in Yakima. Some of the neat things you get in this chair: easily adjustable push handles (which is great for someone like me who is 6’2” tall), brakes on the handles instead of having to bend down and set them on the wheels, and disc brakes. All of the other qualities of a lightweight wheelchairs are still there including quick release axils but they took a good wheelchair and made it great!
How does someone who is a quad supposed to easily pull their pants up in the bathroom? There is a product now for this individual called pants-up-easy. This is a product we can order for these individual because they deserve to be independent just like the rest of us!
I hate talking about this, but most of our business is contingent on what is going on in Washington DC. In January of 2016, Medicare is planning on making rural areas accept the larger city’s reimbursements. What this really means for the residents of the Yakima Valley is we will be reimbursed less for our medical products. For example instead of being reimbursed $182/month for oxygen, this will drop to close to $100. Instead of $140 for a walker with seat, this will drop to $85. It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to know you won’t get the same quality product.
Howard’s recently joined AA Homecare to help in the lobbying effort to make this so it doesn’t happen. If it does go though we will be okay as business; however, Howard’s will have to become even more efficient and handle more with less. What this means for our customers is we frequently have to provide a more affordable options instead of what we currently offer. Yesterday as an example, we had a patient who needed help and adjustments on a product in Mabton, we made the trip. These trips will be harder to make if Medicare forces us to do more with less and those patients will have to come to our store instead of us going to them.
Last and my favorite part of MedTrade was the networking. There are not many of us here in Yakima who run a medical supply store. I had a great opportunity to go to dinner with another family owned DME out of Wenatchee and another out of Oregon. We shared some of our secrets about taking care of our customers, winning audits, and what we can do to become even better at our trade (what we call our Ninja secrets here at Howard’s).
Erik at Howard’s
Yakima medical supplies. CPAP, Oxygen and Wheelchairs