Editor's Note

Strategic Reach

Market changes demand that providers supercharge their marketing strategies.

Today’s HME provider businesses face a tremendous amount of uncertainty. Competitive bidding, the face-to-face requirement, audits and a host of other Medicare-related challenges are forcing them to completely redefine what it is they do for a living, and what patients and referral partners they can serve. It’s a scary time for many.

But it’s also an inventive time. Just consider the number of business niches and strategies that providers who once relied on Medicare for 80 percent of their revenues are now trying to leverage in order to survive and succeed:

Retail. Obviously retail reigns as king of the new revenue-driving opportunities. It appeals to providers trying to replace revenue lost to competitive bidding and other challenges, because it doesn’t get hinge on claims processing. Moreover, retail covers a wide spectrum of products ranging from low-cost impulse buys to big-ticket equipment purchases that appeal to an equally wide range of patient groups.

Private payor. While CMS is working overtime to nix as many providers out of the Medicare game as it can, private insurance carriers are still looking for providers of medical equipment. True, there have been some insurers that have entered single-provider arrangements, and it is likely private payor insurance reimbursement will seek to match Medicare rates, but there are still business relationships to be made and patients to be served. Home access and auto access. As major cash sales categories that appeal to a large number of different types of patients, access represents a category that providers who are comfortable with investing in additional tools, expertise and training can leverage their existing market presence to offer entirely new ranges of services.

Orthotics and prosthetics. Serving O&P patients represents a opportunity similar to home access and auto access, but with even more investment in clinical expertise and resources. O&P is often Medicare funded, but in that case the trials HME providers have faced could give them a advantage over traditional O&P players thanks to the business and documentation processes they have put in place.

Facilities. While providers have sought to provide medical equipment for the home environment, that isn’t to say that the equipment they offer doesn’t appeal to other sectors. Senior living centers, hospitals and other care facilities could easily be served by providers of beds, respiratory, bath safety and other equipment that maps directly to those care settings.

Of course, there is one thing that all these potential marketplaces have in common: providers must create new marketing appeals and messages to reach them. And here is where providers will need to truly to sharpen their marketing edge, especially from a strategic perspective.

Many providers have a great tactical sense of how they should market, in terms of types of marketing media and messages they want to deliver. Now, with new market opportunities, they will need to develop an equally strong strategic approach to their marketing. Some key elements of these strategic plans:

Senior sales and marketing superstars. When working with higher-level referral partners, such as large care facilities or private insurance carriers, providers will need to employ sales and marketing professionals that can convincingly communicate at a very senior level.

Finding the right networks. As providers enter new territories, such as access or O&P, they will need to understand those niches’ spectrum of care and seek to develop the right relationships. Gaining a true understanding of consumers. One thing is clear about the future of healthcare: it will be driven by consumers. Providers must understand how to truly reach out and appeal to patients better than they ever have before. Survival and success depend on it.

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

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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