Growing Your Advanced Wound Care Business
Advanced wound care offers many opportunities to create new revenue streams and help a population that most DME providers already serve.
- By Joseph Duffy
- Dec 18, 2019
Advanced wound care offers many opportunities to create new revenue streams and help a population that most DME providers already serve. We talk to industry experts who provide their expertise to help put you on a path to success with advanced wound care.
The need for advanced wound care services is growing as the population booms and seniors live longer than ever before.
According to the PewResearch Center, 10,000 people turn 65 years old every day and this will continue until 2029.i In addition, Heather Trumm, Director of Wound Care, VGM & Associates, says that:
- Seniors with chronic conditions are living longer;
- Aging makes the skin more susceptible to breaking down; and
- Diabetes is a growing health risk
Further, more seniors are staying in their homes, so many of the advanced wound care treatment protocols are being performed outside of healthcare facilities. Add in that the estimated annual cost to treat advanced wounds exceeds $50 billion per yearii, and this category is an excellent opportunity for DME providers.
"Advanced wound care is not going away," said Trumm. "DME providers are already taking care of the population that is at the highest risk for developing wounds: the elderly and patients with co-morbidities, such as spinal cord injuries, diabetes, etc. If mobility providers are supplying the patient with a cushion and a back for the wheelchair, they may as well be providing that patient with a Group I or II support surface and hospital bed if necessary."
Laura Dahl Popkes, RN, CWOCN, a Wound, Ostomy, Continence Nurse and a Clinincal Support Manager for McKesson Medical-Surgical, added, "Advanced wound care products such as specialty dressings that are designed to provide protection and promote moist wound healing are the standard of care today. Gone are the days of gauze and tape."
Popkes continued, "Consumers are becoming very savvy about wound care options and specialty dressings. Through associations such as the Association for the Advancement of Wound Care, consumers have a source for advocacy and education. Wound patients and their caregivers are invited to join the organization free of charge. The professional members of AAWC generate educational brochures for consumers, empowering them with knowledge pertinent to their chronic wound conditions."
Advanced Wound Care Can Be 30% of a DME's Revenue
Although there is little industry data available about the advanced wound care market for DMEs, Trumm said that in her experience working with VGM members offering advanced wound care, on average, revenue earned from advanced wound care can constitute as much as 30% of a DME provider's total revenue.
"There are opportunities for DME providers to sell to patients seen in MD offices and wound clinics. Additionally, consumers are becoming better educated about their options for higher-quality wound dressings and DME providers should take advantage of this growing market segment," said Popkes. "And don't forget about prevention products and other supplies that may not be reimbursed but fit nicely into the retail space. These include advanced skin care moisturizers and protectants, offloading devices and cushions, and dressings for protection as well as for wounds that simply do not meet criteria for insurance or Medicare reimbursement. A simple adhesive bandage is no longer what consumers expect."
Although there seems to be plenty of opportunity for DME providers to capture advanced wound care market share, it is an ever-changing, often complicated industry segment with numerous technologies and many nuances in both ailments and treatments. Therefore, continuous education is key to starting and growing a successful advanced wound care business, along with choosing products that are appropriate for your client demographic.
This includes a dedication to product knowledge, educating patients and referral sources, understanding the insurance carriers' requirements, comprehending complex clinical documentation and knowing the wound care channels already being used by the big market players.
Key to DME Success: Advanced Wound Care Product Education
Nancy Morgan, RN, BSN, MBA, WOCN, WCC, DWC, OMS, CWCMS, is co-owner and clinical instructor of the Wound Care Education Institute (WCEI). WCEI provides comprehensive training in skin, wound, diabetic and ostomy management, and offers certification credentials that help you differentiate from other advanced wound care providers. Certifications available are:
- Certified Wound Care Marketing Specialist (CWCMS), for DMEs or non-clinicians
- Wound Care Certification (WCC)
- Diabetic Wound Care (DWC)
- Ostomy Management Specialist (OMS)
According to Morgan, who has been educating the advanced wound care industry for more than 10 years, the DME market in general is moving toward quality over quantity and advanced wound care needs to follow suit. The key to this is education.
For example, the clinical practice guidelines of the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP) specify that if a patient has a wound and it is not making progress after two weeks, the treatment plan must be reevaluated.
"The days of using one product for eight months with no outcomes is over," Morgan said. "Under these new guidelines we have to move faster and stronger than we ever had before."
She then pointed out that the majority of DME providers don't have the knowledge to make these fast moves, and may not even know about the guidelines.
Being better educated not only can help your knowledge base — it also can help expand your business. Even though the guidelines are targeted at patient facilities, understanding advanced wound care protocols will assist you with attaining referral partners.
As an example, Morgan shared a story of a patient with a heel ulcer who was being treated at a long-term care facility that didn't know the new NPUAP guidelines and hadn't changed treatment after the patient's heel showed no progress. According to the guidelines, the next step would be a special boot that offloads the heel to ensure the area is free of pressure forces. When state surveyors made an unannounced visit to the facility, they tagged the facility for not following proper protocol. Morgan explained that if DME providers understood the guidelines they could be educating long-term care facilities, becoming referral partners and selling them the boots and other advanced wound care products.
Advanced Wound Care Product Categories for DMEs
For DME providers just entering the advanced wound care market, Trumm suggested starting small and mastering a few products before moving to the next level. The product categories that Trumm recommended most providers should carry include:
- Therapeutic Support Surfaces (Group I and II)
- Negative pressure wound therapy products
- Advanced wound care dressings
- Compression products
- Pneumatic pumps for compression
Follow this progressive table for how to build your advanced wound care business:
Choose 1 category, such as Group I support surfaces.
- Research all the information in your area about need and which referral systems and credible vendors with whom to partner.
- Many of the distributors/manufacturers have reps that will go out in the field with your DME sales associates and help them call on referral sources.
- Make sure your staff and everyone working with this area is fully aware of the coverage criteria and what is needed before the referral happens.
- Then educate them on what needs to happen in the process. A good intake person is key in the process, as well as a great biller.
Add another category, such as advanced wound care or supplying Group II support surfaces.
- This is a great next step because you would have already generated referral sources, and built up a knowledge base.
- For advanced wound care, it’s important to carry the right assortment of wound care products so you can be the ‘one stop shop’ for your referrals.
||Add a third category, such as negative pressure wound therapy to the mix and mimic the same process as Group I.
To grow your DME advanced wound care business:
- Dedicate your team to continuous wound care education so that you are a valuable, knowledgeable asset for your customers and referral partners.
- Have a strong intake department.
- Collect data and make sure the documentation and coverage criteria are met.
- Gain access to an advanced wound care expert.
Providing the best care must be top of mind, so choose advanced wound care products from a manufacturer/distributor that will be dedicated to education and helping you grow your business. Make sure your manufacturer/distributor partner offers product instruction, online tools and education.
McKesson Medical-Surgical offers a comprehensive product portfolio, including advanced wound care products from national manufacturers including Convatec and Smith & Nephew as well as an assortment from McKesson Brands. To get more information about wound care products for DMEs, or if you would like someone from McKesson to contact you to learn more about growing your advanced wound care business, click on mms.mckesson.com/awc-for-dme-providers.