At Home with Dealers

Company Name: Gould's Discount Medical

Location/Contact Info:
Louisville, Ky.

Established: 1994

Types of products sold: Full line DME, including rehab, respiratory, DME, home accessibility products, compression and mastectomy products

Size of Company:85 employees; over $10 million

Home Health Products spoke to David Gould, owner and vice president.

Fun Fact: Our company is involved in many not-for-profit organizations. I am personally involved with the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and recently I was given the Kentucky Champions Award. The award was presented to three people who have been dedicated to the cause and cure of MS. To make it more exciting, the society paired us up with Kentucky Champions who introduced us and gave us an award. The Kentucky Champions were Darrell Griffith, who was a basketball player that went pro; Mary T. Meagher, who was an Olympic gold-medalist swimmer from Kentucky known as Madame Butterfly; and Will Wolford, who's also from Kentucky and was a Buffalo Bills NFL player. The presentation was a fund raiser and dinner. I think they raised around $80,000. As a company — my dad, myself, my mom and my brother — we are always giving to the Down Syndrome Foundation, the Special Olympics, the new (local) Parkinson's Program at Jewish Hospital and other organizations.

Q: What's unique about your store?
My brother Kenny, myself, my mother and my father run this business with patient care and good customer service as the main focus. Everybody knows they can call Gould's Discount Medical if something is needed, if there's any extra care needed or a special product. Our reputation is if we don't have it, we'll get it. That's the philosophy behind Gould's Discount Medical. It doesn't matter if you have United Healthcare or Aetna, you get the same service if you're paying cash or Medicare or whatever the case is. Another thing people know us for is our retail component. We have a state-of-the-art showroom with a 42-inch plasma television and high technology products. We have 10 different power chairs, 15 different scooters, a whole bathroom safety section, we carry maybe 15-20 lift chairs on our floor, we have TVs all over the place showing videos of elevators, we have the patient lifts actually out there to be able to see. Our industry is usually run in a warehouse format. People call and say I need to order and you deliver to their house, but we believe that in this day and time people want to be involved in their own care. And they come into the store to be able to see, touch, feel, get a better understanding of what's involved with the equipment. At any given time, we have eight to 10 retail people to wait on clients. We spend time with the client. If it's one minute or $1 or if it's an hour and it's $10,000, it doesn't matter. It's a hands-on, state-of-the-art showroom. On our second floor, above the showroom, we have our scrubs and uniforms shop, which is like a Macy's. It's not just your basic 5 million products thrown on a rack. It's merchandized very well, and it's like a department store. There's nothing else like our showroom in the whole country, guaranteed. People come for all over the region to see it.

Q: What segment of your business is booming?
Our respiratory is phenomenal. We're a big player; we have some unique dimensions with our respiratory therapist. Our home accessibility division, which my brother started up, is flourishing. And then our DME does well. If I was going to say, what are the components of our success? I would go with philosophies of patient care, first and most, our location, which we've been here almost three years and we're right in the middle of the hospital district, our respiratory, with our unique dimensions of care involving our respiratory therapists, and then our home accessibility. Those are four components that I think add to the success and allow us to do a lot of the other things that are maybe not as profitable.

Q: What have you learned from your experience in the HME industry?
Survival. When we got started with this, my dad said, "Boys, you've got to treat everybody with respect. We're all going to be in this boat, our family members are, our loved ones and ourselves are going to be in the same boat. You have to treat everybody with dignity and respect and do the best you can to take care of the patient, and then everything else will come." Our success comes from that philosophy and that's what our reputation is in Louisville. My brother and I work 12-15 hour days every day, and I've never woke up, not even one day, and said, "I don't want to go to work." Isn't that amazing? I love working with my mom, my dad and my brother and we get along so well. And we love our employees. It's one big family here. We treat everybody like family, and thus, they want the business to succeed. If you treat people with respect, including your employees, they will want good for the company. That's what it's all about.

Q: Do you think the HME industry is changing?
Yes. Unfortunately it is changing to where the insurance companies, Medicare and the payors are going to drive this industry to what they feel we already are, which is equipment providers. The mom and pops are in this to make a good living, yes, but mostly because they care. I mean, the story of moms and dads and brothers and sisters working together in a business, you hear that over and over again, but everybody is doing it because they enjoy it, they want to help people. It's a fun way, rewarding way to make a living. You're affecting people who are dying sick. You are let in to their inner confidence and their homes to help with their recuperation or their condition or the end of their life. And we are an industry of giving patient care. That's what we are. The industry changes are going to drive the companies to become the dreaded equipment providers, and the patients are going to lose the patient care component.

Q: How do you think the industry could be improved?
I think a good start is defining the accreditation for HME providers. I think that's a step in the right direction — no more running it from your basements. The fly-by-night people won't be able to do it. Competitive bidding is not the way. Competitive bidding is about saving money supposedly, which it is not going to do. The politicians, the decision makers, the payors, I think need to be exposed to what an HME provider does: the services that we provide that are not reimbursable, the way that we compete on a day-to-day basis. Competition is what brings better patient care. And these changes are going to take away competition, which is going to adversely take away patient care. At no time did I ever say that we need to be paid more money for the service. It's not about the money, but there has to be a fine line in allowing a fair reimbursement for patient care. The reason our industry has grown in the last 10-15 years is because it has all been about getting people out of the hospitals faster and getting them home. How do you do that? With DME. So, now that they're getting people out of the hospitals faster, they're losing sight of why people were able to stay out of the hospital in the first place, why they were able to recuperate at home, why they were able to improve in their care, why they were able to die at home and not in a hospital.

This article originally appeared in the March 2006 issue of HME Business.

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