CVS and CPAP: HME providers are bullish—on themselves

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Friday, March 22, 2019

YARMOUTH, Maine – Seventy percent of HME providers expect their customers to stay loyal to them, despite CVS offering CPAP masks in its HealthHub concept stores.

Two big reasons why: Their expertise, including registered respiratory therapists on staff, and their customer service.

“Our RTs and their assistants really take the time with each and every patient to ensure their masks get fitted properly, that they understand the importance of their therapy and that they understand how to use their machines,” wrote one respondent to a recent HME Newspoll. “New patients get a seven-day trial on their masks, as well, so if it doesn’t work, they can exchange it for a different mask within the first seven days. I don’t think CVS can compete with that.”

In February, CVS announced it would pilot three HealthHub stores in Houston as a way to expand its healthcare services and equipment to include, among other things, screenings for sleep apnea and CPAP masks.

Some customers may give CVS a shot because it’s convenient, but they’ll come around, one respondent wrote.

“Unless CVS plans to employ knowledgeable personnel to handle what usually is the No. 1 complaint of CPAP users (mask issues), I believe patients will soon learn that DME companies specialize in this type of service,” wrote the respondent. “However, a move such as this will temporarily impact the DME world until patients figure this out.”

Providers may lose one small subset of customers, however, one respondent acknowledged.

“I can see where a busy, young or middle-aged consumer (who is succeeding with their therapy) would love this,” wrote one respondent.

Despite their overall confidence, 71% of respondents still find CVS’s move concerning, especially in terms of what it may mean down the road.

“I'm concerned that this is CVS dipping their toe in the water,” wrote one respondent. “If this is successful, they will push further. If there is money to be made, they will go after it.”

Also, it may seem like a small thing—CVS offering CPAP masks—but a lot is at stake: It’s part of a therapy that has a ripple effect on a person’s overall health, one respondent wrote.

“The end result is the service and support the beneficiary receives will be compromised and the beneficiary will likely be less compliant and more frustrated and will give up, resulting in the continuation of their current health issues that are related to sleep apnea,” the respondent wrote.

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