The Wound Care On-Ramp
Wound care expert Heather Trumm, BSN, RN, CWON, discusses how HME providers can find a path into a service category that covers nearly all the patient groups they serve.
- By David Kopf
- Apr 01, 2021
Photo © lightsource/depositphotos.com
Wound care offers a lot of opportunities for HME providers to offer new products and care services, while expanding revenues. Better yet, it appeals to almost all the patient groups they already serve. But entering wound care also might feel a little like a new driver trying to merge onto a fast-paced interstate. How can providers enter wound care?
In terms of market opportunity, the global wound care market will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 4.3 percent from $33.9 billion in 2017 to $45.5 billion by 2024, according to research from data and analytics firm GlobalData. And new data from market researchers Future Market Insights projects that the North American market for negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT), which is dominated by the United States, will grow to $3.2 billion by 2029, largely due to the growth of single-use disposable devices.
Suffice it to say, wound care has a lot to offer. So how do HME providers approach this important opportunity? Heather Trumm BSN, RN, CWON, the Director of Wound Care for industry member group VGM & Associates (vgm.com), sat down with HME Business to offer some useful insights and tips.
HMEB: Why is wound care an important category for HME providers?
Trumm: Because every patient they touch has skin. Skin health affects each and every one of us. The skin is our largest organ and not only protects us against the ever-changing environment, but it maintains our integrity. Without proper treatment for lacerations, surgical incisions, burns and injuries, a wound could lead to life-threatening consequences.
HME Providers see patients that are prone to skin issues because of their co-morbidities and advanced age. As we age, our skin loses moisture daily and it also loses elasticity because of decreased collagen production. Aging skin also becomes thinner, more fragile and loses fat content, hence why aging skin is more prone to skin tears.
It’s so important to moisturize at least twice a day for all of us, but especially the older adult. Moisturizing helps hold in the natural moisture of our body as well as supports the skin barrier. We provide a white paper that addresses this issue.
HMEB: How do you reckon the HME industry is doing when it comes to wound care?
Trumm: I think they are doing great, but there is always more they could do if they want. The reason why I say this is what I referenced before: their patients have health issues that put them at further risk for skin breakdown. Patients that have respiratory issues, cardiovascular problems, diabetics, para and quadriplegics — these are just some of the patients for whom providers are caring.
HMEB: Are providers offering enough wound care products and services or is the segment underserved?
Trumm: It is a very underserved category because it’s human nature to shy away from wounds and wound care. It’s kind of a scary subject when you don’t know about it.
I feel like providers can always offer more, but they need to ask their patients questions: Who is currently providing you with dressings? Lotion? Compression? Diabetic supplies? The HME provider will soon find out that they could be providing those supplies and equipment to the patients and taking care of all their healthcare needs at home. They already have the patient, so why not take care of their other needs?
HMEB: How would you describe entry-level wound care?
Trumm: Entry-level would be choosing a category in wound care and starting there. When we talk about wound care and HME, we generally are addressing the following categories: dressings, negative pressure, support surfaces, pneumatic pumps, compression, and nutrition.
For the HME provider, it could be in one or more categories of wound care. To start out, if you have never engaged in one of the previous categories, I would start with one and go from there.
VGM has a robust wound care program that is turn-key for anyone wanting to enter into wound care or interested in stepping up their wound care business. Our wound care portal also houses two very useful resources that are part of the program: Our wound care guide and the wound care manual. VGM members can go to the portal and download both resources at www.vgm.com/woundcare.
HMEB: What are the main revenue sources for entry-level wound care?
Trumm: Wound care can be profitable in every category. For example, with negative pressure wound therapy, the pump is the main revenue source (it’s a rental product).
One pump generally costs around $2,000. The Medicare fee schedule depending on state, rural, non-rural, and the point of service, can vary anywhere from $800 and $1,400 per month per patient. The average length of stay for one patient on negative pressure is 45 days (with a two month billing cycle). Depending on your state and if you are rural versus non, you could have one pump paid for after one patient. The disposables that are billed with the pump (A6550 for kits and A7000 for canisters) are generally reimbursed at what they cost.
If you are interested in the ROI of NPWT, VGM has a proprietary downloadable profitability calculator on our wound care portal available to members. www.vgm.com/woundcare.
With Dressings, there are many different types and thousands of SKUs. To be profitable and at the same time providing your patients with the best dressing for their needs, I recommend building a formulary with a couple of brands.
VGM Wound Care also has a downloadable proprietary dressing calculator on the wound care portal to ensure you are making a profit.
HMEB: What are the main patient groups for entry-level wound care?
Trumm: This is a loaded question because patient groups could be anyone with health issues such as respiratory, cardiovascular, and neuropathic. That represents most of the population that an HME provider serves.
I could go into a ton of detail on this, but the bottom line is everything affects wound healing. There are extrinsic and intrinsic factors: oxygen, high blood sugar, smoking, medication, age, nutrition, mental status, contractures, incontinence — the list goes on and on but the patients with health conditions will be dealing with a wound at some point in their lifetime.
HMEB: What are the main referral sources for entry-level wound care?
Trumm: I would start with the current referral sources you are working with. Ask them who currently provides dressings to their patient? Who currently provides negative pressure? Then I would ask what they like or dislike about them? If they don’t like the service, etc.
Also, wound care centers, home health agencies, long-term care facilities, surgical or ambulatory centers, vascular centers to name the most popular.
I would ask for the business and call me! We have a full line wound care program that will walk you through the process and how to be successful at it.
HMEB: Is there special training or knowledge needed?
Trumm: Not necessarily, but the more educated and knowledgeable you are, the more successful you will be in the wound care business as an HME provider.
At VGM, we offer an abundance of tools, education, and resources to help the HME provider become knowledgeable and educated. Ronda Buhrmester, our reimbursement specialist, and I have four pre-recorded course that are available through VGM university that anyone can purchase at shop.vgmu.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=HL19. These courses review dressings, NPWT and support surfaces and explain the coverage criteria in each category.
We are also partnered with Healiant, which has best-in-class educational programs designed to empower clinicians and commercial associates. The Advanced Wound Product Specialist (AWPS) program and certification (awps.healiant.com) is a virtual, on-demand education program designed to train the non-clinician in the same material that your certified wound care clinician referral sources are trained in.
They also offer COVID-safe training and certification to commercial teams (healiant.com/covid/) to ensure they are prepared to re-enter the healthcare continuum safely in 2021.
HMEB: How can providers get more wound care information and expertise?
Trumm: VGM Wound Care offers a very robust wound care program for HMEs who are looking to just get started, or if they already are in wound care and looking to take their wound care business to the next level. We have something for every level.
We just launched a wound care guide, which helps decide if your business is ready for wound care. The guide also includes information that maybe you haven’t thought of to elevate your game in the wound care world, such as remote patient monitoring, lead generation, and customer engagement software. If you go to the VGM portal www.vgm.com/woundcare, VGM members can download it for free.
All these products help you strengthen your relationship with the patient and referral source, which helps promote positive outcomes and decrease healthcare costs. It’s a win-win all around.
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2021 issue of HME Business.