Question & Answer

Saturday, August 31, 2002

HMExcellence: What's it all about?
YARMOUTH, Maine - HME News has teamed up with AAHomecare and Medtrade to recognize the nation's best HME providers. At an Oct. 29 awards ceremony, co-moderators marketing consultant Jack Evans and HME News editor Jim Sullivan will name the nine winners. Here's what the moderators had to say about the awards.
HME: Why create the HMExcellence Award?

Jack Evans: First, the industry has had a ton of negative publicity. You read about it all the time in the national press. We need something in the industry to present a better image of home medical equipment dealers. On a more personal level, I have been interviewing dealers for years who do a great job of running their business. We've all talked and said wouldn't it be great to do something to recognize that excellence. We also need mentoring, and the awards will present us with positive role models.

Jim Sullivan: There is no industry-wide award and as a consequence people don't focus on the attributes of the best home medical equipment providers. This is a means of bringing attention to best practices and elevating an industry that has been tainted by scams perpetrated by a tiny, onerous minority.

HME: How many entries did you receive and were you pleased with the response?

JS: We received about 100 entrees, which I think for an inaugural awards program is tremendous. We had the most prestigious national players; we had regional players and renowned local independents. It's a great cross section, and I think the pool is deep enough so that the eventual winners will carry clout among their peers.

JE: What I liked is that we had well known industry veterans as well as new comers.

HME : Given that there are thousands of HME providers in the United States, how can we be sure that the best providers are going to be found among a pool of 100?

JS: Bear in mind there was a certain amount of self selection that went into the submission of these nominations. You had to believe that your company was pretty good and competitive and a potential winner before you would even nominate yourself. If you didn't think you had something going for you, you wouldn't have thrown your hat into the ring. The initial pool of applicants was very high.

JE: We got 100 of the best, or 100 who thought they were the best. And that is impressive.

HME: How many winners will there be?

JS: There are seven finalists in home medical equipment; seven finalists in the respiratory category; and five finalists in the rehab category. Each of those finalist groups will be winnowed down to nine award winners. There will be a best HME provider, a best respiratory provider, and best rehab provider and then a first runner-up and second runner-up in each category.

HME: Some of these finalists are familiar, perhaps even predictable?

JS: Some finalists - companies and company leaders - are names that are immediately recognizable. Some are not at all familiar. People may be inclined to say, 'It figures that guy's in. He's always quoted in HME News.' But the people inclined to get out front politically for the good of the industry, the people who are well-known, are the same people who are doing things right with community outreach and accreditation, with their commitment to clinical practices and all of the other criteria that goes into being a successful HME provider. So it should come as no surprise that some of these names are recognizable.

JE: It makes sense that if someone is doing a great job, they get elevated over time to a recognizable position in the industry, whether locally, regionally or nationally.

HME: So how is it that some recognizable companies - as well as the unfamiliar - rose to finalists status?

JS: We developed a scoring system, so it was quantitatively done. Entrants were evaluated blindly on sales growth, profit, membership in trade associations, community out reach, leadership, membership in clinical associations like NRRTS and so on.

JE: There was one question and it asked what leadership role do you have in these organizations. It wasn't just membership, it wasn't just community involvement. If someone steps forward and takes an active role in an organization or their community, it tells me they are assuming a role of responsibility and leadership and that is invaluable in any organization. We are looking for well-rounded businesses that take and give back.

JS: The company that only has great financials is like the student who applies to Harvard with 1600s on his SATs and that's all he's got. Harvard doesn't want that guy. They want the guy who has 1400 on his SATs but was also president of his class etcetera. We believe the same: that the best home medical equipment provider in the country is going to be the HME firing on all cylinders

HME: Does the scoring system allow large and small companies to compete on equal footing?

JS: Yes. It'll be up to the judges to decide whether Apria is firing on all cylinders, at all locations, whether it is consistently as good as one of the strong indpendents that have made the cut.

JE: I think that what is valuable here is that we took a point of view that looks at the business in its entirety and not just at one component or aspect.

HME: Any problems or challenges during this first go-round?

JS: We did have a few companies that were uncomfortable submitting propriety financial information, and that is understandable. We wanted that information for two reasons. First, for due diligence, to verify the financial information provided on the initial form was accurate. Secondly, part of being the best provider in America means that you are also a successful business person and that needs to be verified. We may make some changes next year. But the financial information submitted will only be seen by one judge and then shredded, and documentation that ensures that shredding took place will be made available to those companies.

HME: How will the winners benefit?

JE: Lets talk about branding. Our goal is to create a logo with recognition that is equivalent to the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. We want to create the HME Good Housekeeping seal of approval. Not only will it become valuable on a business card, but we hope it will be valuable in setting standards for what home care should be, best practice in home care

HME: The final decisions on these winners are to be picked by a team of judges. How did you decide who they would be?

JS: We wanted a cross section. We wanted a surveyor; someone who looks at company financials all the time; the CEO of a prestigious HME company. We wanted an attorney. We wanted someone well versed in education. We wanted that cross section to ensure that the selections would be well balanced and not canted in one direction or another. If we had five financial guys they may have tended to place less emphasis on company outreach. HME