Tim VanAntwerp: Mine Data For Retail Opportunities
on March 20, 2023
This article was originally featured in HME News.
When you take a data-centric approach to retail, it’s a good fit for nearly every HME provider, says Tim VanAntwerp, who was recently named director of retail services for VGM & Associates.
“Retail was always something we did,” said VanAntwerp, a long-time HME provider, most recently of Van’s Medical Equipment. “But things really got interesting when we started looking at our rejections in Brightree and we looked at those as opportunities to do retail sales on things that insurers didn’t want to pay for. What would possess you to take assignment on a product with a high denial rate? Offer it for cash and the community will follow.”
VanAntwerp talked with HME News about why he thinks providers should view retail as important as Medicare, BCBS or any other payer.
HME News: Why are HME providers built for retail?
Tim VanAntwerp: We’re not a Bed Bath and Beyond. Our CSRs are experts at what they do. They understand how to take care of the customer, but they also know the features of the products and they can advise and fit users on what’s correct.
HME: Does it also take a certain mentality?
VanAntwerp: It does, and that’s usually where providers have work to do. I hate the words, “You don’t qualify.” You have to take that person that expects to leave with a product, and you make sure they leave with the product. It might be a cash rental vs. a capped rental, but you need the skill set to never turn them away.
HME: What products are primed for retail?
VanAntwerp: A nebulizer is a good example. A patient is often going to pay less out of pocket to buy that than a 13-month capped rental, depending on where they are with their deductibles and their co-pays. The same can be true for some wheelchairs, TENS units, and breast pumps. You need to look at your data and your payer mix and see what makes the most sense for your business.
HME: If a provider specializes in a certain product category does that limit their potential for retail?
VanAntwerp: No. If you’re a sleep provider, there are products like eXciteOSA, a TENS-like device that’s worn in the mouth and strengthens your tongue muscles when you wear it during the day. It’s an alternative to a CPAP device. If you’re an oxygen provider, there’s a manifold system that allows the user to plug into the wall and get oxygen in multiple rooms.
HME: We’ve been talking about retail in HME seemingly forever. Why has it been such a slow march?
VanAntwerp: I think the biggest obstacle is we train ourselves so well to get a clean claim the first time, we scare ourselves from getting off that track into retail. We get short sighted.