The 2013 HME Handbook: MSOs

Giving Your Business a Boost

How to expand your business through an MSO’s special memberships and networks

MSOsIn the HME industry, member service organizations (MSOs) began as group purchasing (or buyer) organizations. By joining these buyer groups, providers could take advantage of special pricing afforded to members, giving independent HME providers a way to compete with national providers through contract equalization. The advent of Medicare and Medicaid, and High DME costs helped spur the popularity of buyer groups and as HME provider needs widened, buyer groups morphed into MSOs, which have become the corporate headquarters for a large number of independent providers.

Today, MSOs offer multiple ancillary business programs: insurance, leasing, networking and educational opportunities, as well as purchasing benefits. Some offer managed care contracting, marketing and retail assistance, web design and search engine optimization, re-supply services, and help for traveling patients. They also host major events, seminars and the opportunities for providers to network and grow their business. Some MSOs will even take the lead on lobbying efforts and regulatory issues for the industry. All these benefits point toward building your business..

Here are some tips on how you can maximize an MSO membership, and in doing so, expand your business to meet the demands of today’s challenging HME industry and economy.

What to look for in an MSO — The key elements to look for in MSOs include how well rounded and operationally helpful they are. Do the programs enhance your business, and are they forward thinking? What have been their contributions to the industry’s many challenges, such as cuts, caps and competitive bidding? Does the MSO offer opportunities that take your company to the next level and keep you competitive in the marketplace? Does it offer continued growth in contracting and educational opportunities? Are its programs specifically tailored to your business needs? Does it provide networking opportunities and business development? Talk to fellow members to get a firsthand account of the services.

Make MSO services part of your business plan — How are you goingto use the many services that MSOs offer? Just like any strategy and tactic, they need to be on paper, so to maximize benefits and create a roadmap of how these services are going to expand your business, put them in your business plan. When will you start using the benefit? Who will manage it? What’s your budget? How many additional personnel will it need? How long will it take? What are your goals?

Commit to lifelong learning — New ideas come from new knowledge. Look for MSOs that offer online education, traveling road shows, conferences, video conferencing and webinars on current topics and ongoing, important issues. Find an MSO that offers specialized training in individual market segments, as well as generalized products for all employees. In today’s market you must understand billing, reimbursement and operational challenges. Make sure your MSO is a sounding board that helps you grow and develop. MSOs that are active in governmental issues usually have excellent legislative and current event updates that they share with their members.

Review your benefits regularly — If you are already an MSO member, stay in touch by reading its periodic electronic and traditional newsletters, tweets and website updates so you know about upcoming events and new services that may help expand your business.

Participate in networking opportunities — Whether through using the member directory or at MSO social and educational events, take advantage of having access to the best and brightest members of the industry. Ask questions, collaborate, problem solve and brainstorm. Along with traditional networking tools, most MSOs provide electronic networking, including discussion groups, listerservs and social media. You can network from the comfort of your home or office.

Join a specialized group — Under the MSO umbrella, you will find an array of industry specialized groups that you can join. Want to learn more about POCs and other portable oxygen systems? Join a respiratory group. Want to know what it takes to service comorbidities associated with bariatric patients? Join a bariatric group. There is even an MSO (see below} that specializes in women issues.

There is a cost associated with MSO membership, which is usually based on the size of your company. However, if you are diligent in using the services offered by your MSO, you will find that member benefits may help you recoup that cost in no time.

Points to take away:

  • MSOs started as buying groups. Today they help level the playing field for independent HME providers and provide myriad resources to help expand your business.
  • Do your homework before joining an MSO. Write down a list of goals you would like an MSO to help you meet. Talk to members and staff, and visit their websites to see which MSO best matches your needs.
  • In a rapidly changing industry, education is key — so make sure your MSO offers top-notch learning opportunities.
  • Incorporate the MSO’s services into your business plan so that they are documented as part of your roadmap to success.

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This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of HME Business.

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