Business Solutions

Getting a Boost

How HME businesses can skyrocket with help from member service organizations.

HME Provider BoostWe all need a lift. Whether you are just starting out in business or a veteran HME provider trying to survive the changes and challenges born of difficult economic times, getting any kind of help can be a big asset. And that help can grow by leaps and bounds when myriad business owners with like needs band together to create a much louder and more powerful voice.

This is the concept behind member service organizations (MSOs) and buying groups, which play very important roles in today’s HME industry. These organizations offer professional education, webinars, buying power, conferences and help against perhaps today’s biggest industry threats: cuts, caps and competitive bidding.

Whether you are looking for good deals on expensive medical equipment or a voice in Congress against business-altering legislation, MSOs and buying groups offer invaluable services. HME Business magazine takes a look at three of the industry’s most influential MSOs — The MED group, VGM & Associates, and Essentially Women — what they offer and how providers are getting by with a little help from their friends.

The MED Group

Celebrating 40 years of service, The MED Group is a group purchasing, business solutions and referral management network that helps homecare providers lower their purchasing costs for home medical equipment, health care, technology and other supplies. It currently consists of approximately 400 member partners with over 1,400 sites of service across the United States. These members specialize in complex rehab, DME, sleep, respiratory and orthotics/prosthetics.

“The MED Group is able to provide a member with resources, beyond their own resources,” says Jeff Woodham, senior vice president and general manager, The MED Group (also known as MED). “A member can meet the education requirements needed to maintain accreditation, as well as grow and develop the employees of the organization. MED also offers numerous Marketing programs to promote and expand a member’s business, such as our sleep program designed to help improve our members business model and increase their effectiveness and efficiency in providing CPAP equipment and supplies replenishment.”

The MED Group offers many membership benefits. According to Woodham, the most popular include:

  • MED U — More than 100 online accredited courses written specifically for the HME, rehab, respiratory and orthotics industry
  • MED Compliance Solutions — Tools necessary to maintain accreditation and prepare for any accrediting body site-review, and help educate members regarding compliance with both state and federal regulations and requirements
  • MED Suppliers Network — A network of MED members that is promoted to healthcare professionals, such as case managers, discharge planners, physicians and caregivers, to assist members in promoting themselves in order to gain incremental business in both the competitive bid markets and noncompetitive bid
    markets
  • Clinical Networks — Rehab, respiratory and orthotics and prosthetics networks in which clinically specialized members receive education with CEUs and CRCs.

A full-service MED member since 1996, Mark Richardson, president, Home MediService, credits The MED Group as being essential to his company’s success.

“The MED Group has helped us to define who we are,” says Richardson. “They believe in excellence, teamwork, and superior customer service, and those qualities happen to be our company’s values. They partner with us not just to help us be profitable, but to do things right — the first time — and that enhances our success.”

Home MediService also is a member of the MED buying group, a National Rehab Network Member, and a National Respiratory Network Member. MediService’s service department is CRC Gold Certified by The MED Group.

“In human resources, we require all of our employees to enroll in the MED University, an online training program for each of our job descriptions,” says Richardson. “We use their EmTrak Program, which is an online employee performance management system for hiring, evaluating, and coaching employees, and our staff regularly tunes into numerous educational webinars every month put on by The MED Group. In marketing, we customize materials that they have already developed for our own use, such as brochures, catalogs, and patient information sheets. We also attend their annual meetings, rehab and respiratory training seminars, and meetings that The MED Group sponsors with other smaller groups of providers.”

In the current climate of cuts, caps and competitive bidding, The MED Group has developed numerous programs and services to assist members in navigating these current challenges.

“The biggest challenge is competitive bidding,” says Woodham. “While The MED Group continues to advocate for repeal, MED recognizes the importance of helping our member partners prepare for the bidding process. MED created a web site — www.medsuppliersnetwork.com — to educate healthcare professionals and consumers looking for answers to their equipment issues, and who also needs to know where they could get their equipment.”

The MED Group is developing the Competitive Bidding Institute to address this huge industry concern. The MED Group will help providers prepare for the bidding process and submit a viable bid, based upon a better understanding of the costs to provide the services. The MED Group recognizes that the bidding process is one small part of competitive bidding and will be working with its members to help provide the tools and training to help them remain competitive and profitable if and when Round 2 of competitive bidding is implemented.

Ted Metcalf is director of national accounts and relationship management with Pride Mobility Products Corporation and Quantum Rehab, which has been a partner of The MED Group for over 10 years.

“The MED Group allows providers to do more with less by accessing web-enabled content that improves efficiency and helps to maximize revenue, lower costs and strengthen their market position in homecare,” says Metcalf. “They assist their members in helping them to grow and become more successful through improved efficiencies in education and training, reimbursement, accreditation, certification, logistics and other operational areas. Courses offered through MED U are economical and convenient opportunities to continuing education. They also offer an array of services ranging from payer development to lead management, through which MED drives incremental leads to their members.”

The MED Group

The MED GroupThe MED Group is a group purchasing, business solutions and lead management network that helps HME providers lower their costs, increase their revenue and sustain competitive advantage in their marketplace.

Services

  • Diversify member revenue streams and payer sources.
  • Connect members with their peers and share critical information.
  • Provide top quality marketing programs and initiatives to grow market share.
  • Maintain top-quality training and education for members and their staff.
  • Reduce costs and increase efficiencies.

Contact

3223 S Loop 289
Suite 600
Lubbock, TX 79423
www.medgroup.com
Phone (800) 825-5633

VGM & Associates

VGM & Associates was founded in 1986 as a national buying group for independent HME providers. Today, it is made up of 15 companies collectively known as VGM Group. VGA has just fewer than 3,300 members with approximately 5,800 locations in its medical buying groups. Membership costs vary by business size and range from $200 to $300.

“VGM strives every day to do the best job possible to provide valuable services to help our members be more profitable and to fight against the onerous reimbursement challenges faced by our industry,” says Ron Bendell, president, VGM& Associates. “The biggest benefit to VGM membership is that those HME providers will have access to tools and information that help them maximize their profits and assist them to remain compliant to the ever-changing rules of reimbursement.”

When it comes to services, VGM offers a wide variety. It is recommended that you visit vgm.com for full details. Here are some highlights:

VGM Insurance offers general liability, products/completed operations, professional liability and Medicare surety bonds for DMEPOS (durable medical equipment, prosthetic, orthotic, and supplies) providers.

VGM Fulfillment processes and ships CPAP supply orders directly to patients.

Homelink offers access to more than 9,000 independent community-based homecare equipment and services vendors.

VGM Education provides affordable quality training programs that support the success of independent home medical equipment providers.

FreedomLink provides 24/7 services for traveling and relocating patients. The program arranges for oxygen or other medical equipment needs before patients leave home, and can service patients on each stop of their itinerary.

In response to a cry for help from members regarding audits, VGM recently launched www.vgmaudithelp.com so members can learn how to prepare if they’ve been notified that they are being audited, as well as how they can appeal if they’ve already been audited.

“Through VGM Education we have offered five audit help seminars, and these will continue,” says Bendell. “In August, with the assistance of the state associations, we will be conducting a number of one-day, on-site seminars to assist HME providers who are in the hot audit areas across the country.”

In relationship to NCB, VGM has www.vgmncbservices.com, which has information about the bid, bid products, subcontracting and procedures. This website was created in preparation for the original Round 1 bid, updated for Round 1.2 and will be updated with information for Round 2, says Bendell.

Dean A. Blessinger, BS RRT, is director of operations of the HME division of HLS Pharmacies, a VGM member for 15 years. One of his first tasks when coming on board HLS Pharmacies seven years ago was to get the organization accredited. He was amazed at how VGM’s services not only helped them with their goal of accreditation but with the future evolution of the company.

“Without VGM in our corner, we would have to employ at least one or two additional employees to carry out maintenance of our daily operations,” says Blessinger. “And VGM representation in Washington, D.C., cannot be understated.”

Invacare, a manufacturer and distributor of home and long-term care medical products, considers VGM and The MED Group to be valued partners, says Brian Ellacott, vice president and general manager, Invacare Commercial Operations, North America.

“Today, there are a number of factors impacting the home medical equipment industry, including reimbursement changes, national competitive bidding and economic challenges,” says Ellacott. “Joining a group like VGM or MED can help a provider be successful in this stressful environment.”

Blessinger feels that today, advocacy may be VGM’s No. 1 benefit. But also important to Blessinger and his company is VGM being a one-stop resource for virtually everything they need as an HME provider.

“We waste very little time searching for product info, pricing or establishing credit applications,” says Blessinger. “Frankly, I am not sure how independents can operate effectively without an organization such as VGM in their corner twenty-four seven.”

Bendell says that VGM is monitoring accountable care organizations, state tax and Medicaid issues, and recently started offering a new retail assistance program benefit. Bendell says VGM will assist at all levels to build an HME’s retail presence — location, design, outfitting, merchandising, sales training and new retail products.

“VGM has been instrumental in allowing us to reinvent ourselves and change our business model,” says Blessinger. “Additionally, the interaction between our organization and the many other members has given us insight that we otherwise could not possibly attain. We regularly share operational strategies among ourselves. There is not enough time or space to cover all the services and the great people that administer them at VGM.”

VGM Group

The VGM GroupThe VGM Group provides services that help members be more profitable and fights against the industry’s onerous reimbursement challenges.

Services

  • VGM Insurance offers general liability, products/completed operations, professional liability and Medicare surety bonds for DMEPOS (durable medical equipment, prosthetic, orthotic, and supplies) providers.
  • VGM Fulfillment processes and ships CPAP supply orders directly to patients.
  • Homelink offers access to more than 9,000 independent community-based homecare equipment and services vendors.
  • VGM Education provides affordable, quality training programs that support the success of independent home medical equipment providers.
  • FreedomLink provides 24/7 services for traveling and relocating patients. The program arranges for oxygen or other medical equipment needs before patients leave home, and can service patients on each stop of their itinerary.

Contact

1111 W. San Marnan Drive
PO BOX 2817
Waterloo, IA 50704
www.vgmgroup.com
Phone (800) 642-6065

Essentially Women

Founded in 1996, Essentially Women Group Purchasing Organization has grown to more than 800 members with over 1,000 locations. The organization started with nine independent businesswomen operating companies specializing in providing healthcare products and services to women. From their first gathering, Essentially Women was created to provide a venue for businesses to cut costs, remain profitable, expand their base of operations, introduce new products, help operate more efficiently, and provide continuing education and enhanced communication. A startup membership costs $50 and quarterly dues are $45.

According to Cindy Ciardo, Essentially Women vendor relations, member benefits include:

  • Education, industry updates, cost-savings from negotiated rates and buying terms, and new business opportunities
  • Discounts for services from Essentially Women’s partners, including the Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC), the Board for Orthotist/Prosthetist Certification (BOC), and the American Board for Certification (ABCOP)
  • Annual conference and trade show, Focus on the Future, which offers BOC and ABC continuing education credits

“The biggest new benefit that we will be launching soon is our managed care contracting network,” says Ciardo.

Essentially Women founding member Syndi E. Salat, CmF ABC BOC, medical products manager, Positive Care, is sure that without Essentially Women and its participating vendors, she wouldn’t be in business today.

“I use each and every service they offer,” says Salat. “The best example I could give you would be accreditation. As a hybrid retail business that is over 90 years old, I was never required to do the accreditation requirements as full DMEs were asked to do, and when this became a requirement for me, honestly, I was overwhelmed.”

Salat found that Essentially Women offered specific seminars at Focus on the Future, their annual trade show and educational conference, with industry leaders,
acquainting her with the terminology and the methods needed to pass. Other members who had gone through this process offered suggestions and advice. The EssentialAdvantage newsletter published articles specifically addressing the problems Salat was having and a participating provider offered a program for accreditation materials that Salat called a “lifesaver.”

With the website providing legislative information, links and resources, Salat calls Essentially Women an indispensable resource.

To keep member businesses viable, Essentially Women helps its members increase productivity, reduce operating costs, improve billing and collections procedures, understand the impact of the many legislative and regulatory changes the industry is experiencing, and explore alternative products that yield better profit margins and non-Medicare revenue.

Here are some of the ways Essentially Women presents its information to its members:

  • Focus on the Future is the annual educational conference and trade show, providing members with the resources to build relationships, learn about new products, increase their industry knowledge, improve operational efficiencies and broaden their business horizons.
  • EssentialAdvantage is the quarterly newsletter that provides information and practical advice for sales and marketing; personal and professional development; employee hiring, firing and retention; improving profitability and business management; strategic planning; product information; and business growth.
    • Essential News is a broadcast email service that announces up-to-the-minute industry legislative and regulatory information.
  • We Thought You’d Like to Know... is a broadcast email sharing news and events of particular interest to the women’s healthcare industry.
  • Webinars and teleconferences hosted or sponsored by Essentially Women provide industry-specific education, helping members meet their scientific continuing education requirements for certification and accreditation.

Essentially Women

Essentially WomenEssentially Women offers successful business solutions for providers of women’s healthcare products and services.

Services

  • Member rewards program and better rates and terms with participation vendor companies
  • Managed care contracting network (coming soon)
  • Education with CEU credits
  • Networking forum of similar business owners
  • Industry, regulatory and legislative updates

Contact

P.O. Box 71
Oxford, MI 48371
www.essentiallywomen.com
Phone (800) 988-4484
Fax (888) 988-4426
melissa@essentiallywomen.com

This article originally appeared in the August 2011 issue of HME Business.

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