VGM Know Your Options Guide Educates Consumers, Allied Pros

This industry is a way of life for you, but for your clients and customers, everything about home medical equipment — from product definitions and functions to funding and medical justifications — can be new, confusing and stressful.


Know Your Options, A Guide to Home Care Products and Home Accessibility, seeks to provide education and help at this critical time. Produced by The VGM Group, the guide is a new marketing option for VGM and U.S. Rehab members.


Know Your Options starts by explaining what customers can expect when they begin the HME purchasing process. Then the guide defines various types of HME (explaining, for instance, the different types of power chairs and their options), and illustrates how HME can fit a range of needs and lifestyles. Also included is a home modification guide that describes how various rooms can be made more accessible.


The idea for the comprehensive guide came from VGM’s CFO/CIO Mike Mallaro, who says inspiration struck when he and his wife were planning a kitchen remodel and visited Home Depot.


“I stumbled upon a Planning Guide for Kitchens they had done,” Mallaro recalled. “It was a wonderful booklet that covered everything from assessing your needs, to determining your budget, to selecting materials, to keeping on track with the project.

It had lots of information and explanations, but also lots of great pictures of different options for a kitchen. I thought, ‘We need to make something like this for home medical equipment.’ Our creative team took this general idea and ran with it to create this Guide. Mary Avenanti led our efforts.”


Mallaro saw parallels between a home remodeling and the landscape for consumers buying HME. “They are usually unaware of their options. They get overwhelmed; it can be confusing and frustrating… We wanted this Guide to be a valuable resource for aging seniors and those who care for the disabled and the frail elderly. We wanted to communicate to people that they have options, that assistive devices can improve the quality of life, that there are things you can do to make a home more livable, that HME doesn’t have to be cold or carry an industrial look and that their local, community-based provider can help make life at home a little better.”


But the guide also seeks to help HME suppliers and other professionals who are part of the purchasing process.
“This Guide has many possible applications,” Mallaro says, “but let me focus on two. First, it is a strong piece for the retail side of the business. We identify over 70 different accessory items that the consumer may want to consider — these are incremental purchases. We explain, in simple language, what options exist when selecting items such as scooters, rollators, ramps and nebulizers. We show many attractive pictures of products, designed to make them think about possibilities, and then to engage their local provider in a dialog. That will drive additional sales.


“The second major application is to use the Guide as a marketing tool with referral sources. This Guide is an educational resource, and forward-thinking nurses, physicians, case managers and discharge planners will see it as an effective way to help patients. I can foresee these Guides being handed out to patients who are sent home with a prescription for equipment.

That patient’s scrip may just be for oxygen, but that patient needs to be made aware of the many other assistive devices that could help them. Perhaps they could benefit from a scooter, or it may signal time to make some safety improvements in the bathroom. As referral sources see this Guide as a way to teach and inform patients, they will hand them out. Then the referral source will appreciate the tool given to them by the HME provider, and the referral source becomes an indirect marketer for the HME provider.”


As HME suppliers continue to affirm themselves as critical members of the health-care team, Mallaro believes this Guide is one way for suppliers to grow their businesses and their business relationships. He adds that the Guides are priced affordably (e.g., 200 copies for $399 plus shipping) to fit into suppliers’ marketing budgets.


“We want our members to thrive,” Mallaro says. “The typical VGM member is a community-based provider that does an extraordinary job of serving patients in their community. We wanted this Guide to be a tool to help them grow their business. Communicating product and accessory options to the consumer and caregiver in an attractive, organized and easy-to-read manner will help expand business. With all the turmoil in our industry — from reimbursement cuts to competitive bidding to ‘slow pay/no pay’ payor sources — providers need incremental cash business and they need consumers who self-identify additional need for assistive devices.”


For more information on the Know Your Options Guide, visit www.vgm.com, or contact vgm creative.

This article originally appeared in the April 2008 issue of Mobility Management.

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