Dealers on the Front Lines: Aubrey Hines, Owner, Affinity Medical Supply, Wolfforth, Texas

What segment of your respiratory business is most influenced by bariatric patients?
Probably the majority of our respiratory patients involves CPAP. We can see a direct correlation between bariatrics and our CPAP patients from both directions. We often have the opportunity to recommend CPAP to our bariatric patients just by noticing their conditions. And on the flip side of that, from our CPAP patients we often get opportunities to recommend to the patients and their physicians different equipment specific to bariatrics.

Do you find that you’re getting the respiratory side of bariatrics first before other segments of HME?
It’s kind of half and half. It really depends on the referral source, the initial source.

Describe the bariatric referral sources in your area.
They’re quite varied. For respiratory patients, it’s generally coming either from sleep physicians or straight from facilities. Those referral sources, particularly in the area of sleep, may not be as attuned to the bariatric issues with patients. We’re able to take that information back to the patient’s PCP.

What led you to start covering the bariatric market?
Essentially, we saw a segment of the population that wasn’t really being covered. From my experience working at other places, we would occasionally get calls for equipment that we just didn’t carry. My associates and I here at Affinity, we’ve all experienced that in the past and decided with our company that we’re going to cater to this niche market. It’s all about catering to a niche market to set yourself apart as an individual-type provider.

How do you think bariatrics is going to impact the respiratory business in the future?

For those companies who are focusing on bariatrics, a large majority of the patients that are currently bariatric patients will require respiratory needs in the future just by pure physics. Their clinical situations will deteriorate if they maintain a bariatric status. If you are skilled enough to recognize that and able to supply them with their respiratory needs down the road, not only does it benefit the patient but it benefits the business as well.

What advice do you have for other providers who might be interested in getting involved with this segment of respiratory?
I think the best advice is to train your staff. Make sure your staff is able to recognize patients with bariatric issues that are not being addressed by their current equipment or bariatric patients who have other issues in the area of respiratory. That’s not to say you’re training your delivery driver as a respiratory therapist, but you can certainly train him on patients who are short of breath all the time and train him to notice simple things. A lot of times these patients just assume this is a normal state of affairs for them. They don’t know there are options out there for them. We find that a lot with primary care physicians as well. We’ll go and speak to these physicians about bariatric equipment and a lot of physicians know it’s out there but think it’s a hospital-type thing and less of a home care-type thing.

This article originally appeared in the Respiratory Management May/June 2007 issue of HME Business.

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