Having spent over a decade in DME sales, management, writing, speaking and consulting, I have always wanted to “be a little fly on the wall” when a patient was being discharged to see how social services/discharge planning really handles that moment of truth when the patient gets to choose his DME supplier. I recently got my chance to be in the room with my dad, my mom, the social worker, the charge nurse, an occupational therapist and a physical therapist when the social worker popped that question: “Who do you want to provide your home medical equipment?”
My dad co-wrote the jingle that Boll Medical used in their radio and TV ads back in the early 80s but he didn’t mention Boll Medical. Dad didn't mention that my first job in DME was at Boll Medical or that I worked in that industry for years. Instead, he looked at me as if to ask me to decide for him. I didn’t want to decide. I wanted to be a fly on the wall and see if social services would choose for him or steer him toward their favorite supplier. There was no way I was going to be cheated out of this rare chance to see how the “decision” is made. I just hoped neither of my parents exposed me by telling the discharge team that I used to be in that business. I was relieved when my mother narrowed the “choice” a little.
“Anybody but Loop”, she said. She didn’t say why she didn’t want Loop and nobody asked.
Oh, this is getting good, I thought.
Then the social worker started naming options:
“There’s Elana, Lincare, Boyd’s, All Med…” Her voice trailed off.
I also have a theory that DME people can tell which hospital my dad was in from the DME suppliers they mentioned to him at discharge.
I can’t prove it but I have this theory that if you walk up to a “referral source” and ask them to simply name some companies they refer business to, the first few names out of their mouth are probably their favorites.
My dad still didn’t voice a preference. It was safe for me to speak now.
“Can you give dad a list of local DME companies and let him choose from the list?
I never actually saw the list but someone gave it to him and he chose Apria. I asked him how he came to choose Apria, a company he’d never heard of.
“Your mom ruled out the closest company and Apria was almost as close”, he explained.
I was surprised both by his choice and the way the choice was made but I didn’t care. I finally got to be a fly on the wall when a patient was choosing his DME provider.
I don’t want to draw many conclusions from a single moment of truth, but I suspect if, at any point, someone – me, the RN, the OT, the PT – had actually recommended a provider, my dad would have seconded the motion and he would have never seen the list. Or chosen Apria.
In point of fact, Apria's office isn't any closer than several others dad didn't select so we may never know what really caused him to circle Apria on the list. Maybe he liked the way the name sounds. I didn't press him. He said he selected it because it was close but, by that measure, he could have chosen Lincare or Elana or Boyd's or All Med.
For the record, I do not now nor have I ever worked for Apria in any capacity. Although I still follow the industry and some of the people in it from afar, I haven't worked for any DME company in any capacity in at least 15 years.
DMEs might also want to read my three December posts on "referrals" and "relationships". SMPS.org called these posts "outstanding business development advice."
Coming Soon To Higginbotham At Large: Recap Of What I Said At The ISA Symposium, How To Unleash The Awesome Power of LinkedIn,