CRM in HME: Going with the Workflow

CRM can play a crucial role in HME sales, but it must align with how providers do business.

In the list of difficult sales jobs, HME sales has to make the top 10. There are oceans of physicians, social workers, discharge planners and other key referral partners at hospitals, health plans and other healthcare organizations, and each of them have unique requirements, standards and expectations. That's a lot for HME sales professionals to manage.

Enter CRM. Customer relationship management (CRM) is a category of software services and products has helped sales organizations manage that sort of sales challenge since the 1990s. However, while many of those systems have helped more “general” sales teams, none of them have really catered to the unique needs of the HME world.

“A lot of it has to do with the workflow,” says John Griscavage, CEO of PlayMaker Health, a company that provides tailored CRM solutions for various niches within post-acute healthcare, including HME. “It's understanding you're not trying to close a deal per se; you're trying to manage an ongoing referral stream.

“It's bringing in order-level detail, and DME specifically, so they can understand the history of different types of orders that a particular referral source is providing,” he continues. "You can filter it by, you know, certain orders that maybe have more value. So, if you're a respiratory care provider, you're going to care about oxygen concentrators less so than you're going to be talking about cannula replacement or something like this.”

Strategic and Tactical Information

Providers also need to be able to dig into their market and sales data and relate that back to their clients, according to Griscavage, who has run an HME business and worked in other post-acute businesses. Providers must be able to answer strategic questions such as who are the referral sources that drive the highest volume of referrals? Who generates the best referrals for a particular type of care, product or market? To whom are the major referrals sending their business? What's their payer mix?

“You want your reps to be efficient with that,” he explains. “So, that kind of market data is very vertical specific. We have customers who say, 'all I want is, sleep therapy buckets,' or, 'all I care about is respiratory,' 'all I care about is orthopedic,' or something. That's very specific to the industry, as well.”

And this highlights a key pain point when it comes to HME sales. Providers need to have a deeper, clearer understanding of their marketplace. Management must be able to answer some pivotal questions about their current referral business, as well as help their reps grow those customers.

“Who are the referral sources I should be calling?” Griscavage says. “If I'm considering a particular area where reimbursement is a challenge, how can I think about market expansion and other products? Is my team focused on the right places? Are they being efficient with their time? The sales manager is going to want to think about territory optimization. They're going to think about efficiency of reps. If I'm a rep, I'm thinking about, how am I growing my book of business? That type of insight is really important.”

And reps need all the help they can get. They must manage their time effectively and ensure they have all the necessary information at their fingertips. Before meeting with a referral partner they want to have access to all the information their organization has recorded for that client.

“They want to have all of their notes in one place on their phone so they understand what they’ve done with this account,” Griscavage explains. “Who have I talked to? What's the order history I've done with this account? When I go in and I have that two minutes with that doctor, I can have a meaningful conversation before a patient has been referred.”

Data Sources

In addition to internal data, providers also need to CRM tools that can boil in third-party data, in order to help them broaden their research and market perspective. For instance, knowing where a prospective referral partner is currently sending their business is powerful information.

“If you're trying to break in to particular facility or particular position group you can see where they're referring today and you can prepare a competitive message specifically against those providers,” Griscavage says. “That allows you to then go in with a message that really resonates.”

Now the provider knows where referral is sending its business and it can offer comparisons and show how its services stack up against the competition.

Moreover, that competitive information is available. For example, Griscavage says PlayMaker has a partnership with Lexis-Nexis which generates a variety of data insights across the post-acute care sector, he says.

“We do get a certain amount of information, not so much in DME, but in other sectors directly from CMS and public available quality metrics,” he explains. “When DME people see it for the first time, they're like, ‘Woah!’ When I was in my DME, roughly 15 years ago, we didn't have access to any of this. We had no idea who were the good doctors and who weren't the good doctors for our kind of business.”

Make the Investment

Ultimately, Griscavage urges providers to invest in CRM, whether it’s PlayMaker or another offering. The kind of information a good CRM can produce is too vital to the sales process to ignore.

“If you have more than a couple reps you can't do this manually,” he says. “If your reps are doing 10 orders a month, could they be doing 15 if they just were a little more effective? If you're doing a certain amount of volume of business on 10 reps, could you do on eight reps?

“You have to turn over every stone,” he continues. “Then you've got to make sure if you're working with a referral source already you're getting everything you an out of them, right? … You want to arm your sales team with the best technology, the best information possible so that you're being effective and efficient.”

About the Author

David Kopf is the Editor of HME Business.

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