Meeting Our Customers' Needs at Home
on February 08, 2021
By Jeremy Stolz, President, VGM & Associates and VGM Fulfillment
Updated December 2022
History teaches us that in periods of shocking disruption, better ways of doing things emerge, and those better ways tend to stick. Certainly, 2020 has been a chaotic year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, it has been an opportunity for the DMEPOS industry to demonstrate its value in delivering cost-effective care in the home.
It’s also a chance to reassess how we best meet our customers’ needs and our business objectives when it comes to getting product to users. Perhaps the central question to ask is: How do we best get home medical equipment, supplies, or technology to the patient where they will use it?
While hospitals are at capacity, providers are working around the clock to deliver care to patients in their homes. This is not new, these frontline operatives have been going into the homes of patients for the better part of a century, but true home delivery of medical equipment is more important now than it’s ever been. Because of the pandemic, crossing the threshold with wheelchairs, oxygen, hospital beds, and other home medical equipment is now more dangerous while demand is increasing rapidly.
Notably, DMEs have not just provided logistical support in getting these items into patient homes but, arguably more importantly, have provided patient education, clinical support, and billing competency. The need for all of this equipment and these supplies will only increase as more care is delivered at home. With increased demand a reasonable assumption, providers must now focus on how to satisfy that demand and determine which role is most valuable.
Providers that focus on going into the home with equipment when it’s absolutely necessary and partnering with distribution experts for everything else—product segments like CPAP, diabetic, and numerous other supplies that can simply be delivered to a doorstep or mailbox—will thrive in the current and post-COVID world. This pandemic represents a key turning point where more providers are uniting with distributors for expert logistics support, so they may focus their critical resources on the direct patient care they excel at. A good distribution partner offers:
- Means of procurement of product
- Speed to user via efficiency
- Access to more products
- Minimization of back orders
- Technology proficiency and security
- Managing labor
- Proximity to patient
- Customized marketing programs
- And many other benefits
A distributor also gives providers better access to partnerships with the home delivery services like UPS and FedEx for supplies in what is now a carrier-controlled market, created by the overwhelming surge in parcel volume in 2020. This unprecedented demand has shaped an environment where access and pricing in the United States are now leveraged by three main carriers, so creating more strategic bonds between providers and distributor partners is by far the best strategic path forward for DME.
Because of this surge in volume, another positive outcome is that home delivery solutions will continue to advance and improve on a massive scale. UPS and FedEx have invested billions in the past six months alone to build up their networks of planes, employees, and facilities. And yes, delivery drones are coming to a neighborhood near you soon, too. All of these enhancements will result in a much faster, more efficient supply chain and contactless medical supply home delivery solution within the United States.
Home delivery efforts have swelled 100-fold in our communities in 2020, too, as restaurants, grocery stores, and even breweries have transformed their business models to hand-deliver their goods to consumers’ doorsteps after the disruption of their primary channel. Many of these changes will be permanent. The forced adoption by business owners of solutions like apps, web ordering, and contactless delivery that may have been a lower priority for businesses before COVID-19 are now here to stay. When customers do emerge from their homes and venture out to their favorite places to shop, businesses that survived will be armed with multi-channel delivery solutions that will grant them access to a far greater customer base than they had before.
Some customers will opt for home delivery far more often in the future and many will choose this option permanently. The trend is truly moving toward home delivery as the preferred option for anything that can conceivably be home-delivered.
These advancements and trends translate directly to the DMEPOS industry in the form of technology implementation, from telehealth to workflow management and embracing strategic partnerships with distributors to optimize resources. As this pandemic has wreaked havoc on so many, opportunities for greatness have emerged. People want to stay in their homes, now more than they ever did before. These trends are here to stay, which can be very good for our industry, and those who jump at the opportunities that have been presented will see the fruits of their labor in 2021 and beyond, while solidifying DME’s place as an integral, highly cherished, and appreciated part of the U.S. healthcare continuum.
This article was originally featured in the VGM Playbook: Forecasting 2021. To read the full article and more like this, download your copy of the playbook today!
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