As we all know, competitive bidding is pushing down margins and limiting the number of providers that can participate in the competitive bidding areas covered by rounds one and two. Round one winners have already been announced with 63 percent of bids disqualified, and prices have seen an average 26 percent decline, leaving affected providers to try to come up with other ways to serve patients in the meantime.
Cash sales opportunities represent an increasingly attractive option for providers who either might be able to bill Medicare, or who need to attract more revenue in order to make up for declining margins. Serving up cash sales products ensure a steady cash flow coming into a provider’s coffers, rather than waiting on reimbursement, and they don’t require the effort and resources required simply to ensure billing goes through, either.
The one cash sales category that just about any HME provider can add to their lineup with little specialized expertise is aids to daily living. Most ADLs are relatively simple devices that don’t require the same level of expertise as other types of DME, such as mobility products, for instance. If ever there was an easy entry point into cash sales, ADLs are it.
Here are some key tips and considerations when reaching out to new patients with ADLs:
It pays to advertise. Word of mouth is one thing, but it doesn’t compare with a consistent advertising strategy and given that ADLs appeal to such a broad spectrum of patients, advertising is a must. While a yellow pages listing goes without saying, providers should also consider local advertising opportunities such as mailers, door hangers, inserts or ads in local newspapers, or even coupons. Offering 10 percent off on a bath rail could be the key to unlock the door to increased volumes of patients coming in the door looking for ADLs.
Furthermore, consider targeting publications serving special communities. For instance if you have a nearby retirement community, investigate whether or not that community publishes a circular of some kind and see if they offer advertising space. Centers of worship also provide excellent opportunities for attracting patients and their families, especially if a church specializes in ministry to seniors, for instance.
Maintain a consistent message across all your advertisements, and don’t just list features — list benefits. Patients want to know what your ADLs can do for them. Watch your competitors’ advertising, if any, and determine how your advertising can outshine theirs.
Speak up. In the same you might target advertising to specific patient groups, consider speaking at local gatherings of those patients. For instance, if a patient group that could benefit from your ADLs holds meetings, find out if they would be interested having a guest speaker. Present yourself as an expert who can offer them some innovative solutions to common daily living challenges they might be facing.
Network. Another way to attract new patients to your ADL services is to meet with local, likeminded professionals. Contact the referral partners and physicians you work with and find out if they belong to any local healthcare provider networking groups that include HME providers. This is an excellent way to let them know about your expanded product range on a face-to-face basis.
Don’t just think patients. Instead think of the people in their life, and especially their families. For instance, while a senior on a fixed income might not be able to afford a grab bar or bath chair, their children might. In fact, the Baby Boom generation, which counts as many as 76 million people to its ranks, is increasingly having to care for older parents, represents a marvelous market opportunity for providers. Baby Boomers have the cash to get their parents what they need. Better yet, as those Boomers enter retirement, they will keep in mind the providers they worked with to help their parents when the time comes for them to aquire those very same ADLs for themselves.
Plan your retail space. Providing cash sales products means devoting some floor space to them. Determine if you can make adequate room to let patients try out products. If you simply don’t have the room, you might need to consider expanding. “It’s hard to make a decision when you can only look at something in the pages of a catalog,” says Randy Richardson, marketing manager for Home Care Medical Supply Center in Calgary, Alberta, which operates a whopping 37,000-square foot facility. Richardson advises presenting ADLs in such a way that staff can demonstrate the products for patients and so that patients can fully interact with the products.
Likewise, placement for a retail spot is also an important consideration when pushing cash sales items. Suffice it to say that you want to be seen. “We positioned ourselves on a high traffic thoroughfare location,” Richardson says. “We have 80,000 to 100,000 cars drive by us in a city of a million people. If you’ve driven to and from work past our store for the past 15 years, and your parents get sick, you’ll remember us.”
Points to take away:
• ADLs appeal to a broad spectrum of patients.
• Don’t rely on word of mouth. Instead, advertise.
• Investigate local speaking opportunities to reach new patients in person.
• Find out if there are opportunities to network with local healthcare professionals and similar referral partners so that you can personally tell them about your expanded ADL services.
• Consider patients’ families as potential buyers, as well. Baby Boomers with disposable cash who are caring for their parents are a case in point.
• Ensure your retail space provides ample room for patients to try out ADLs.