With 20 years in the DME rental business I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some of the country's best DME providers. From Fall River, MA to Ontario, CA I have met some of the most dedicated professionals in the country. The common theme across these wildly successful organizations is a partnership mindset. Each company carefully crafted a corporate culture of dedication and compassion for their employees. We’ve made it a mission to emulate this paradigm within our own organization. Our model has three pillars. First, we look at ourselves as an extension of our customer’s brands. Second, we always carry a win/win mentality. Finally, we enter every client partnership with the expectation of a long-term relationship.
Our first pillar, the extension of brands, is a core part of our mindset. We understand that every interaction we have with a patient is a direct reflection of the hospice/SNF providing care. If we perform well it reflects the professional care that our clients provide to their patients. We thrive on the compliments of case managers, nurses, and facility staff. Adversely, when the DME provider has a poor interaction with the patient and/or the patient’s family, the client hospice/SNF receives the complaint, and it’s usually directed at the agency and not the DME provider. Your vendors should work hard to make sure that your agency/facility receives rave reviews. Unfortunately, anyone who has been in this industry long has heard the horror stories of vendors that ignored the needs of a patient, dropped off equipment without so much as an explanation of how it works, or worst of all had a hostile attitude. If your DME partner doesn’t reflect your brand it may be time to have a frank conversation or maybe shop for a new partner.
No relationship survives long unless both parties brings a win/win mentality. This one is critical on both sides of the equation. As a vendor, we are often expected to go the extra mile, and we should. However, as a customer, the same expectation is not always reciprocated. We are blessed with outstanding partners that work with us for the best solution to a problem. Over the years though we’ve worked with some very demanding clients that weren’t interested in an amicable solution. It makes problem solving more difficult when any obstacles are met with “do it or we will switch providers.” A reed can only bend so far before it breaks. At ProCare we strive to exceed customer expectation. As a client, it’s important that you reciprocate. That type of collaboration means that your patients and their families get the best possible outcomes. Our philosophy is simple, focus on what we can do for our customers, and find solutions for the occasional requests that fall outside of our ability. Sometimes this means asking a competitor for help. That’s OK if the patient/client is taken care of.
I absolutely understand the pain associated with change. It’s the single largest obstacle I encounter when trying to close a new account. The exchange goes something like this:
Me: “Tell me about your current vendor.”
Prospect: “They aren’t able to get the equipment we need on time, they don’t answer their phone, their drivers are rude, the invoices are hard to read or incorrect… We would really like to find another vendor.”
Me: “Great, how would you like to start the conversion process?”
In the end, all their existing pain points don’t equal to the pain associated with switching vendors. I can’t blame them. Changing vendors is a daunting task. That’s why we always expect a long-term relationship. That means it’s on us to earn our clients’ business each day. This final pillar may seem like a redundancy, but it’s important that we treat this concept as a standalone. This concept keeps us from getting stagnant and taking our accounts for granted. We currently serve accounts that have been with us for over 19 years! In the ever-changing high demand field of healthcare, I think that’s a notable achievement.
A partnership mindset is critical to collaboration and patient care. It is important to remember that this is a reciprocal component. For your agency/facility to provide optimal patient care you must have a mutual partnership mindset with your vendors. Look for vendor partners that share your organization’s core values. Talk with your vendor partners and establish appropriate expectations. Do your vendors act like an extension of your brand? Do they look for opportunities to help you win, and are you willing to do the same for them? Is it obvious that your vendors want a long-term relationship? If not, it may be time to sit down with them. When you and your vendors are in line, your patients win.
Last month we explained how transparency plays an important part in your DME partnership. This month we are going to cover a topic that is near and dear to me, cleanliness of equipment. The idea that a DME company provides clean equipment is so fundamentally basic that most professional care organizations take it for granted. Sadly, industry standards have slipped with reimbursement rates, and you may not be getting the services you think you are. In the 2014 HME Business article “Keeping Things Clean” author David Kopf cites durable medical equipment, specifically support surfaces, as a potential risk to patients for cross contamination. He details the need for the DME industry to pick-up cleaning standards. With ever diminishing reimbursements, and pressure to keep DME costs down, cleaning is one of the first corners cut.
DME plays a vital role in quality patient care. It is also a potential hotbed for cross contamination. The current industry standard for cleaning DME is a quick “spray and wipe” technique. All DME companies should at a minimum use a quaternary or phenolic disinfectant to kill germs. However, spraying the equipment and giving it a cursory wipe is a long way from truly disinfecting the equipment. At ProCare we take pride in our Patient Ready Certified (PRC) Program. We are so proud we branded it. All our rental equipment goes through a thorough cleaning that takes a substantial amount of time. We use toothbrushes and Q-Tips to clean those hard-to-reach places. Our air surfaces are disassembled and hand sanitized. The PRC standard is as close to factory new as we can possibly get it. This is probably our most inefficient process, but it’s critical for the safety of our customers.
This article is not intended to bash the industry or our competitors. There are a lot of good DME companies with strong cleaning procedures. Make sure that your DME partner falls into this category. Ask the driver how they process equipment. He or she is very likely to give you an accurate detail that the sales rep will not or cannot. If they clean the equipment in the van between pick-up and delivery for another patient… run. That is not cleaning for patient ready status. As bad as that sounds, it does happen. Sadly, many companies view this as an opportunity to cut expense from the process to stay competitively priced. Your patients are the unwitting potential recipients of this practice. Make sure that your expectations and your DME partner’s practices are aligned. If not, it may be time to shop.
Now the commercial… Despite the inefficiencies caused by a “deep clean” process, ProCare commits to maintaining the cleanest DME rental equipment in the industry. Our PRC Program is our promise that every piece of equipment we rent is disinfected, and as clean as humanly possible as the day we received it new. ProCare also offers equipment repair and maintenance programs for organizations that prefer to own DME instead of renting it. Our technicians deep clean and deodorize your equipment between patient uses to dramatically reduce the risk of cross contamination. We can also fix most of the stuff you have lying in a closet (or shed or back hallway). Support surfaces, concentrators, wheelchairs, and bed frames. Own it or rent it, we make sure it’s clean and working to provide the therapy your patients need. For more information about our PRC services please don’t hesitate to call us at 208-322-5055. If you have a minute check out our Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/ProCareInc and follow us to stay up to date on upcoming inservices and events.
Have a great spring!
President, ProCare Medical Equipment
We continue with part two of our five part series. Last month we discussed the value of service as a primary component of what to expect from your DME provider. This month we will cover the importance of transparency. If your current DME vendor’s definition of transparency means they are virtually invisible until they need something, then it may be time to have a conversation with them.
The healthcare industry is a continuously evolving landscape shaped by state and federal regulations, accreditation requirements, the economy, political environments—the list goes on. As a result, we need real-time information to ensure that we stay ahead of the curve and make decisions based on accurate information. Your DME budget is a significant portion of your monthly expenses, and with the right information you can bring it in line with your revenue goals. This is where your DME value partnership kicks in. A good DME partner should help you understand your expenses, learn about your specific operational goals (as relating to DME), and help you choose the best products based on patient needs and not rental rates.
You should have, at a minimum, regular access to what equipment is currently in your facility, what equipment is assigned to which patient, how long the equipment has been in your facility, the daily/monthly rental price and how much you have spent to date. This will allow you to make decisions about your DME program including when to purchase long-term rentals and how to manage the therapeutic needs of your patients, as well as maintain a vigilant eye for unnecessary items that may have been lost in the shuffle or billed past their pick-up dates. Over the past 10 years, I‘ve seen the average DME expense decrease by more than 50%, because facilities have reviewed this type of information on a regular basis.
Another important area of transparency involves invoicing. During my time with AP/AR professionals in hospice, skilled nursing, LTACH and in-patient rehab facilities, I’ve seen invoices ranging from immaculate to atrocious. Know that each customer (facility/organization) is different, and that each has specific preferences. It would be nearly impossible for a DME company to establish a perfect invoicing system that every customer would universally embrace. However, it shouldn’t take an interpreter with a degree in forensics to decipher your monthly invoice. You should be able to see at a glance what is/was in your facility and where during the invoicing period. In fact, if you have weekly rental reports, it should be easy for you to assess your invoices and move it through the system faster.
Does your DME partner provide a transparent system that helps you meet your DME goals? If not, have a discussion with them. It may be as simple as alerting them that you expect more. At ProCare we have an automated reporting system providing weekly reports to our customers regarding their current DME. We have the ability to customize reports, frequency of reports, and the distribution list of recipients. Again, not all DME companies have this ability. At the very least they should have some type of system that allows them to maintain accurate records of their inventory (that’s an accreditation standard). Ask for it. If they aren’t willing to establish something for you, it might be time to go vendor shopping.
I hope you all had an incredible 2016 and that your New Year’s went off without a hitch. We are looking forward to 2017 and the opportunities that it brings for both us and our client partners. Stay tuned next month for the third installment where we will cover the need for cleanliness. I know that seems like a no-brainer, but you might be shocked at what industry standards allow into your facility and for your patients. After that we will discuss “A Partnership Mindset” and “Experience.” Thanks again! See you next month.
Chris Hunt, CEO at ProCare
Over the next few months I will be writing about the five things you should expect from your DME company. I have broken it down into segments because who has time to read a novel? Over the past 20 years I have had the opportunity to serve several segments of the professional care market (skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, hospices, etc.), and I believe that there are five critical components to a successful DME partnership: Service, transparency, cleanliness, a true partnership mindset, and experience. This month I will focus on service.
Service seems like a no-brainer right? However, I have found in my discussions with many professional care agencies that they are underserved and they don’t even know it. We (as humans) get used to our circumstances. Often the mediocrity that we hate becomes the standard we expect. The bottom line is you don’t have to settle with mediocre service! Your building/agency demands a certain level of service from your staff to maintain the quality experience required by your customers. A DME company should be an extension of these expectations. I believe there are three basic pillars of service that should be a minimum for any DME company: Timeliness, education, and professionalism. All DME companies should offer 24/7/365 service to accommodate late or weekend admits, afterhours tech support or emergencies, and should be able to accommodate reasonable time requests. Your DME partner needs to understand that your ability to perform timely admits often depends on their ability to provide timely service. Timely service is a key indicator of how your DME partner views your relationship.
We are the experts in DME. When you call we should be able to help your staff choose the right product for your patient and help them understand how to use it. If your DME partner is doing a quick drop off and not performing the education portion of the delivery, or you are constantly being upsold to a more expensive unit, you are being short-changed. It is our responsibility to set-up the equipment, educate the patient/caregiver, and give a return demonstration to ensure it will be used properly. This isn’t just a perk. It’s a requirement by our accreditation body. Isn’t this why you outsource your DME?
Finally, your DME partner is an extension of your brand. They should look and act the part. What do your patients and families say about the staff that delivers their equipment? A large component of our service is patient (and patient family) interaction. In fact, it may be the most important. We train our drivers to make a positive impact on those whose lives we touch. We may be the only human contact they have that day. We may also have an opportunity to bring someone in a bad situation a bit of levity. This is the compassionate side of what we do, and it’s exactly what you should expect from your DME partner.
Service seems like such a basic concept. Every vendor knocking on your door (begging for your business) will proclaim that theirs is the highest level of service available. There are some amazing DME companies out there that do provide excellent customer service. Are you contracting with them? If you’re not sure ask for the full list of their existing clients including branches and facilities, and call their customers. A great DME company will not worry about which customers you call because all will say the same thing…“They Rock!” I hope you all have a great December a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. Look for more next month!
During this Thanksgiving season it is important to reflect on those that have enriched our lives for the better. I personally do not do this often enough, so I would like to take this opportunity to extend a deep heart-felt thank you to all that helped our company come so far over the past year.
First, I would like to thank my amazing staff. You are a first rate team with some of the deepest dedication I have ever seen. When we changed our business model to include DME service to hospice organizations I was scared. No, I was terrified. Your experience, insight, and guidance through this process has helped us become a first-rate service organization. Your long hours, attention to detail, amazing senses of humor, and unwavering compassion to serve is unmatched. I cannot express to you all how much you have all enriched my life. Thank you so much. You are my extended family.
Thank you to the families of the amazing staff. You share your loved ones with me, and I often see them more than you do. Thank you for the late nights, for tolerating the 3:00 AM emergency phone calls, family time disruptions, and all of the other inconveniences that go with the profession we have chosen. Your support in this organization is critical, and I appreciate it more than you will ever know.
Thank you to our customers. Skilled nursing facilities are under a constant barrage of corporate pressure to go with national contracts. Our customers fight this battle every day helping to keep our small company in their buildings. I promise that we will continue to provide the best service possible, and that we will continue to work on improving that service. Thank you for your loyalty, and your friendship.
When we began serving the hospice market we needed a “guinea pig” to help us hone our skills. Thank you Horizon Hospice for providing this opportunity. Your patience and guidance has been priceless. Trevor, Danny, Bridger, Tyra, Sandy, Amanda, and so many more people within your organization all deserve a personal thank you for helping us overcome the hurdles of this new adventure.
Thank you to (in no particular order) Alliance, Complete, and All Care for trusting us to extend service to your patients and their families. I hope that we are living up to our commitments and honoring your service missions. Our hospice relationships have become so much more than a business model. The interactions and personal relationships we earn with patients and patient families are amazing. It is gratifying on an indescribable level to hear about the positive impacts we can have with so many people. It has been an honor to share this mission with you.
Thank you to my partners and mentors David and Gordon. You are an integral component of our company. Your experience and guidance means so much. I have enjoyed getting to know you and your families on an individual level, and I look forward to the next stage of personal and organizational growth.
Thank you to my own family. Thank you to my wife who listens to my silly ideas every day, keeping me grounded, and always watching out (mostly for taking care of the finances because I hate that). Thank you to my children for their patience. Tolerating the inevitable business discussions that seep out of the office and into the dinner table. Thank you to my brothers and mother, all of whom helped establish this organization and different points of our journey. To my entire family; thank you for everything you do and have done. I love you all.
Finally, thank you to the men and women of the United States Armed Services. Your sacrifice makes all of my entrepreneurial adventures possible. There is no way to fully express my gratitude, so I will keep it simple. Thank you for all that you do. Thank you to all veterans active, deployed, and inactive. You are incredibly special people.
There are so many specific expressions of gratitude that I would love to extend to all of you. However, brevity and all of that, so I will close with happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I hope that this is the best yet, and that next year is even better. I look forward to 2016 and all it brings.