The 2014 HME Handbook: Buying Groups/MSOs
How to Get the Most from Your Buying Group or MSO
The business advantage of a buying group has been clear to many HME providers since day one: A group of providers with limited buying power can band together to gain volume sales discounts from various vendors. That alone has been a critical draw for buying groups, but over time they have morphed to become even more.
Today, most buying groups have transformed into member services organizations (MSOs) to offer a variety of services in addition to group purchasing power. Now they often offer professional education, host webinars and even help providers fight regulatory threats to the industry. MSOs also host major events that can give HMEs another opportunity to network with and learn from their peers while attending seminars and conferences. Some even host small expos for seeing the vendor partners’ latest DME. With an MSO membership, a provider can leverage a multiplicity of additional services that these groups now offer to the industry.
And the larger role that MSOs play is particularly important because providers need every bit of help they can get. Competitive bidding, audits and other pressures have force providers to find new efficiencies, expand their private payor revenues, pursue retail and perhaps create whole new business lines, such as home access or orthotics and prosthetics. Let’s take a look at how
Review Your Membership
Any member of an MSO should make sure they are actually aware of everything their group offers. They might just be surprised at what they find. MSOs are constantly adding services to try and better serve their members. In fact, MSOs can be active organizations that regularly communicate with their members, so consider appointing a staff member that can take charge of the membership and alert membership as to important new services that are now available, new product additions to the buying group, or important events that are coming up.
Prioritize Business Services
As you review your MSO’s offerings, put any business and financial services offered at the top of your list of offerings of which you want to take full advantage. Services can include items such as liability insurance and surety bonds; equipment financing; web design and search engine optimization; managed care network contracting; design and production of marketing materials; live and online educational offerings; and regulatory and government affairs assistance. As many providers teams and resources become constrained, the business services they offer can be out-and-out lifesavers.
Investigate Special Networks
Some MSOs will offer special networks within the MSO membership that could translate into new business opportunities. These networks could sub-groups that created to serve specific types of HME businesses, such as to respiratory or mobility providers, and some could help providers explore and expand into new territory, such as home access services or orthotics and prosthetics. These special groups can help you learn more about these businesses and start to get oriented trained. Moreover, some can help you obtain new certifications and create business relationships with new partners and referral sources.
Most MSOs host special events for their members, and members should plan on attending as many as possible. Typically these events include detailed conference sessions hosted by a variety of staff and industry experts; course that offer CEUs for clinical staff; exposition halls showing off the latest DME from their vendor partners; and some hospitality events that give members a chance to socialize, and possibly create some new business relationships. Given the professional education value alone, the travel cost to attend MSO events is money well spent.
In addition to the events hosted by various MSOs, many of these groups also provide electronic networking opportunities, such as discussion forums that and social media offerings that let members interact with their fellow HME professionals all year long. Networking is perhaps the one of the most important and least considered benefit of MSO and buying group membership. The best way to learn new business strategies, operations efficiencies and approaches to patient care is to get them straight from your peers, and MSO networking offerings make that possible.
Taking the MSO Plunge
Providers that are not members of a buying group of MSO should give them a second look. Take some time to study the organizations serving the HME industry (see “Learn More”) and compare include their service offerings; the members, staff and culture of the organization; and of course the return on investment. In terms of price, MSOs and buying groups have different prices structures. Some might be flat and others might be tiered by company size. In any case, remember that after joining, a member can always leave (but likely won’t given the bang for the buck MSO memberships offer).
Points to Remember:
- Traditional buying groups have evolved into member service organizations that offer a wide range of services.
- Those services are constantly evolving and expanding; consider appointing a team member to monitor those changes.
- Key MSO services are financial and other business services that can help providers contend with diminished staff resources.
- Take full advantage of special events and networking opportunities, which, thanks to the Internet, can go on all year.
- Dedicated networks to specialty providers within MSOs can help them take their businesses to the network level, and perhaps in all new directions.
This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of HME Business.