Maryland Provider Launches Web Site to Promote Service

Mark Richardson

Talk about the service component of your business. How big of a role does service play?

Mark: It’s been roughly within the last 12 months that we’ve developed a patient services department, and its sole purpose is to provide more service, especially to the respiratory patients who need continuing supplies for their CPAP or bi-level device, or that need ongoing maintenance with their oxygen systems.

Bob: The staff’s whole job is to follow up with the patients.We try to streamline our order intake process so that our customer service reps are focused on taking the order for both our patient and their family and the referral. Then they do insurance verification, getting the right information and getting it verified as quickly as we can for the patient so that they know about any out-of-pocket expenses. There’s a lot in just taking the order quickly and timely. When you call us, you have a live person. You do not go into voicemail.

Bob O'Connor

Do you have a maintenance program or service department for oxygen equipment?

Bob: Yes, we have a service department that does repair and maintenance of all of the equipment.We do have a program for concentrator checks and how we evaluate every piece of equipment and how we document every piece of equipment and the service and maintenance on it.We just went through our seventh accreditation and we’re very proud of that. That’s a good 21 years of accreditation.

Mark: We’re also members of a national group of suppliers, called The MED Group, and it has a certification program for service technicians. Not only have most of our technicians been through the highest level of that program, our service manager also has helped to teach some of those classes to other providers.

Talk about the design and development of your Web site.

Bob: We just got the site up and running with this technique about three or four months ago (at press time). Before that, it was pretty much very basic about our products and services. Trying to find something that fits our vision and also meets our needs in where we think our industry is going has been difficult.
It’s a site we can also maintain ourselves.

Mark: That was one of the huge reasons why we did the complete overhaul. This is a newer technology that actually allows us, rather than having to go through our webmaster at a remote location, to go in and edit the copy and photos and add pages right here in-house.

What was your goal with the Web site?

Mark: One of the goals was to totally simplify and streamline the site itself to make it easy to navigate and to be simple as far as graphics and not a lot of clutter. Our previous site had a lot more clutter; we were trying to fit too many things in on one page. Then, as we decided that we wanted a simple, easy-to-navigate, clean-looking site, that’s what took us to our core value, which is service.We said, “Of all of the things we want to highlight, we really want to highlight our service.”

Bob: We still have some more things under construction on our products and services, FAQs, insurance and showcasing other items to make it more helpful. Eventually, this will become more of a tool for patients to be able to order, pay and also get educational information. So, if the patient says, “I’d like a little more information on how my CPAP mask fits,” then we potentially have a video on the site that explains how to do your mask fitting.We have two customers: our referrals who are looking for information on how to use us and our end-users. Our end-users are starting to get on the Internet more and more and use service that way.

How does your Web site fit into your service model?

Mark: Service is really how we try to set ourselves apart in the industry and how we try to market ourselves. That’s probably something that all of us have said for many years, but we really are trying to do that here.We believe it’s true.We’ve really developed quite a team here, and one of our core values is excellence in customer service. And so, it was our desire to have the Web site reflect that and be functional as well.

The couple of pieces that are still missing from that Web site are a diagnosis guide that will be probably dozens of pages when it’s done. To start with, it will just be a single page that will say, “For these diagnoses, here are some guides.” It will tell you a little about the diagnosis and what equipment may be a help for that diagnosis. The other page that we want to add is an insurance guide that will not just show the insurances that we accept but also will explain how the insurances work, what they will cover and how much and whether there’s a co-pay.

One of the things that we want to do is add a pay component. We would add a way for the end-user to be able to privately pay when they want to go in and buy any privatepay item, such as bathroom items or respiratory equipment, such as the oil-free moisturizer or bed wedges. As our market becomes more Web savvy, we figure that in the future people are going to want to pay co-pays online, as well.

As we’re setting up equipment in the home, our techs would give our patients a flyer that says, “These things are available for you that could supplement and make your experience with this equipment better” or “This is a way to get add-on supplies,” and it would have a listing of those supplies. The flyer would also say, “here’s an 800 number or here’s our Web site where you can go to order supplies online. “

I would say by next year we’re going to have that flyer developed and we’re going to have this piece developed on the Web site that will allow people to go on and buy items directly. Also, our techs when they are in the home will be talking about the Web site.

What has been your biggest challenge regarding respiratory service this year and why?

Bob: The 36-month cap and the transition of competitive bidding and the fact that this 36-month cap back in July was going to be a transition of property ownership to the patient and then that all changed. Now we have all of these cap issues and we have quite a few challenges with patients that relocate and travel. Relocation is a horrible mess right now with people who leave service areas and they’re capped out.

Mark: We foresee a whole lot of problems coming about in this industry unless something is done to change or eliminate this 36-month cap. Congress puts the onus for these patients’ care on us, and yet, if patients take our equipment and move to Ohio and they’re past their 36th month, there’s no Ohio supplier that’s going to take these patients. Other suppliers are going to refuse, and yet we can’t provide good service. How are we going to handle the refills? It’s really a very untenable situation for the patient and for us. Medicare does not understand that at this moment. I think they’re going to understand it if this is not changed in Medicare reform. There’s a bill [the HOPP Act] that just got put on the floor [at press time]; Democrat Shuler has put a bill out to totally eliminate that 36-month cap. I hope it does go through because I understand Medicare wants to save money but they’ve really sacrificed patient service on this one.

Bob: Also, we took a 9.5-percent cut Jan. 1, Blue Cross Blue Shield reduced their prices for HME by 25 percent, and then the 36-month cap. Our whole industry is taking a significant hit.

Mark: It’s quite a challenge. The whole cycle that we’re in right now is how fast can we change our models to keep up with the continuing diminishing of our reimbursement.

Bob: One thing we’re delighted for is that everyone in our industry will have to be accredited by September 2009. That will definitely shake out some companies that are not living up to a good service standard.

Home MediService, located in Havre de Grace, Md., was founded more than 30 years ago. The company has three branch locations serving eastern Maryland, portions of Delaware and Pennsylvania. Home MediService is a full-line DME with oxygen, sleep, suction and asthma services. Respiratory comprises 60 percent of the company’s business. For more information, visit homemedi.picgroup.com.

This article originally appeared in the Respiratory Management July/August 2009 issue of HME Business.

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