Provider Strategy:

The Great Differentiator

Leveraging your data, reports to drive increased sales.

So tell me how you differentiate your business from all of the other HMEs during sales calls? Tough question!

In a world of ‘me too’ HME sales calls, we need to find new ways to truly differentiate our business from our competition. There is the product and service differentiator, but we need more to capture the hearts, minds and allegiance of the referral source. We need to do so without re-inventing information and using information that we have. Using the words of the unofficial mantra of the Marine Corps, we must “improvise, adapt and overcome.”

To get started we need to look deep into our business and find information that we can share with our referral community; data that is already there and is adaptable to a sales call.

Square One: Product Data

Some of the most obvious items to use would be product specifications and the factors that differentiate one product from another. This data could be the overall liter flow, length of battery life, bolus capacity, and type of material used as it relates to mobility products, for example. This sort of data is valuable information especially when you have a referral source that is highly technical and mechanical in nature. They of course want good service, but they also place a high value on the product itself.

Now does this really differentiate your business from your competition? Yes it does, especially if they do not carry the same product. You can share why your business has selected a certain product over another and the value added to both the customer and the referral source. The referral source can benefit from fewer calls from the patients because of dissatisfaction with a particular feature or benefit of the product.

Also the referral source could benefit from the data supplied by the product, such are raw data and reports, specifically on devices that require regular monitoring, such as CPAPs. This is a powerful way for you to utilize the manufacturer’s sales representatives who have been extensively trained in these features and benefits about their product and have an excellent working knowledge of similar products in this category which their competition offers.

Finding the Point of Pain

This is a good start but there has got to be more that we can use — and there is. A closer look at our business and what we collect as data and information reveals a host of other items that we can utilize to further separate our offering.

Before we go any further let’s briefly talk about how we get the referral source interested in this data. Just because you bring it does not mean they will automatically want to hear about it. There is no pain or perceived pain and that is what we have to expose our clients to: Pain. You’ve heard the movie quote “if you build it they will come.” No they won’t — how do they know? How does the referral source know they need or want to see your data? We have to understand the difficulties they are experiencing, and then show them how our data and information will make their job and interaction with their patients easier.

We must use questions (open ended) to get their feedback on the data and information we desire to share. We must become students in what keeps our referral source up at night and how we can help them sleep better. It is highly likely they have not been asked this by their other HME related sales representatives.

We are embarking on new ground in many cases and the referral source will be hesitant at first, but it is our job to pursue them with this information. You will most definitely have those referral sources that will not even give this data and information a second look. That’s fine; just move on and continue to bring this to them, just not as frequently. Typically you can bring this information to this reluctant referral source quarterly and perhaps say, “I know you have said this is not important to you in the past, but I have some information worthy of sharing and just want to present it to you.” Those interested referral sources will welcome this information but here too you need to uncover how they want this data and information relayed to them. It may be directly to them, but more than likely it will be to one of their team members.

You need to uncover:

  • What format would you like this data and information delivered?
  • To whom should this data be delivered?
  • At what point should there be follow up from us and to whom would you like that follow up to be with?
  • How frequently would you like to have this data and information delivered?

Let’s look at just two of the items we can bring our referral source that are easily accessible to us and also easy to disseminate as valuable data and information: customer satisfaction surveys and larger macro trends infl uencing referral partners’ businesses and patients.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys

First, we can use customer satisfaction surveys as a great source of data and information. This can be very specific to a patient and referral source, but also can give a broad picture of your overall customer satisfaction.

It is recommended that anytime you share specific patient satisfaction that you also share the overall customer or patient satisfaction of your business. Let us be more detailed with this. So Dr. Johnson has referred to you Patient Jones and this patients has completed or was contacted as a patient follow up and provided you feedback on their satisfaction with your services.

You can bring this data and information to the referral source, but include in that an overview of ALL such feedback from other patients. Obviously we will on share specific Patient Jones information with Dr. Johnson, but can provide the other feedback, such as other similar patients served by our company have provided the following feedback on our service. No names included. Because we have asked the questions listed in this article, we know the frequency and to whom the referral source wants this data to be shared and we also know the level to which feedback and further follow up is required based upon the referral sources specification.

Here is an example of how we uncover when further follow up is required: When questioning the referral source on this matter we can ask, “Doctor, when we receive a rating lower than or equal to six on a scale from one to 10, would you like further information provided and if so what other information do you want provided and to whom should that be delivered?”

Macro Trends

A second piece of powerful information is the state of the industry and our ongoing ebb and flow with competitive bidding, state Medicaid and other payer issues. The key is to represent this information while having an understanding on how this will impact both the patient and the referral source.

For example, we know from our experience with competitive bidding that the referral process as we know it does change when competitive bidding is implemented. Access to multiple providers decreases and therefore more time is taken from the referral source to identify which provider they can use for a specific product. This is a direct point of pain to the referral source.

It is recommended that you as the sales professional stay appraised of this and other such issues and bring this in a form of article or short clips from publications such as HME Business, Respiratory & Sleep Management, and Mobility Management. Not only do these publications have this valuable information but offer are several e-newsletters, such as e-Source and e-Mobility that are terrific resources for convey to your partners.

These are just two easily accessible sources of information and data that you can provide that will further differentiate you from the competition. Some may say, “I have tried this and it did not work.” May I suggest that you may not have fully addressed the referral sources pain? Please try it again and use the steps outlined in this article.

I know that many of you have been staying tuned into Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and their movement into and surrounding our Hospitals and Referral Sources. As part of the ACO platform, hospitals will be the focal point for ‘accountability’ and be reimbursed based in some part on patient satisfaction among many other things. As we continue to see our referral sources (physicians) become hospital employees and if patient satisfaction is truly a part of the ACO accountability format, then the data we share will not only be valued by the physician but by the hospital and the ACO.

To further emphasis the timeliness of our providing this data and information to the referral community, CMS released on July 11 in an e-blast from CMS Provider Resources:

“On July 9, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that as of July 1, 89 new Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) began serving 1.2 million people with Medicare in 40 states and Washington, D.C. – ACOs are organizations formed by groups of doctors and other health care providers that have agreed to work together to coordinate care for people with Medicare.”

There is much more that can be done. I will be talking about these resources in an upcoming webinar being hosted by HME Business on Aug. 28. You can find out all the details on Please tune in and learn how you can leverage data as the great sales differentiator.

This article originally appeared in the August 2012 issue of HME Business.

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