Offer Remedies in Health Care
Earn a healthy client base through pain-relieving products.
Offer government-approved health insurance claim forms and you gain a health-care client's attention. Offer to ease the pain of insurance claim processing and you gain a client for life.
This is important advice for distributors selling to the second largest industry in the United States. With tough competition coming not only from other independent distributors but from low-bidding directs, distributors seeking success in health care should consider offering remedies to soothe some of the market's biggest headaches—insurance claims.
According to Jim Magdaleno, sales manager for government-approved forms manufacturer TFP Data Systems, Oxnard, Calif., one of those remedies comes in the form of the jumbo insurance claim envelope. Holding up to 50 unfolded forms, Magdaleno says this product reduces claim processing time considerably.
How so? According to Magdaleno, the need for insurance claims to be mailed unfolded is becoming increasingly important as more and more clearing houses for insurance companies are utilizing scanning equipment to process the forms. Unfolded forms, he added, prevent processing delays.
"As a rule, claims enclosed in these envelopes get processed, on the average, seven days faster than forms received in No. 10 envelopes, which are creased and may cause equipment jamming," said Magdaleno. "This is especially important to a practitioner performing a $5,000 procedure who wants to receive a return on the claim as soon as possible."
Another opportunity for sales in health care is through industry-compliant claim forms. Two of the most prevalent are the CMS-1500 and the UB-92, both of which are approved by the National Uniform Claim Committee (NUCC), the National Uniform Billing Committee (NUBC), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and the American Medical Association (AMA).
While UB-92s are used primarily by hospitals—a major sales opportunity in itself—CMS-1500s are utilized by hospitals, in addition to non-institutional groups such as medical practices, laboratories, ambulance services, medical groups and the entire Medicaid industry. "The CMS-1500 form is the most widely used business form in the United States," said Magdaleno.
It is also one that was previously known as the HCFA-1500. While the new name is effective immediately, Magdaleno said it will be phased in over time on letterhead, signs and other products where HCFA is printed.
Knowing about changes like this brings up additional advice for salespeople—keep abreast of breaking news, updated compliance issues and revised regulations that affect the industry. By being aware of industry issues, distributors have a better chance of retaining customers.
"We maintain continuous dialog with government agencies for our distributors, and by doing so we guarantee that our forms comply with paper, ink and layout specifications," Magdaleno explained.
One of TFP's distributors, Vickye Dunn-Posey, vice president and co-owner of South Shore Business Forms, Bayou Vista, Texas, seconds that motion.
"My clients stay with me be-cause I find out from manufacturers well in advance when a change is going to occur," said Posey. "This allows me and my clients to prepare for them."
While selling government-approved forms and insurance claim envelopes are a must in the health-care market, there are other products to promote.
For example, Carole Seidel, office manager for Hospital Forms and Systems, Dallas, said that laboratory mount sheets, shingled narcotic control forms, physicians' order forms and pharmacy twin web forms are necessities that are predominantly sold to hospitals. And, due to a decline in the need for manual forms, Seidel said that Hospital Forms has transitioned to manufacturing laser-printed generated forms.
In addition, John Freimuth of Freimuth and Associates, Palos Heights, Ill., enhances business by selling basic stationery items, invoices and pharmacy labels to small medical offices. Posey, who also sells to small offices, distributes checks, billing statements, invoices and promotional products.
"A lot of doctors are now buying promotional pens, koozies and sport bottles," said Posey, adding that teeth-shaped magnets are popular among dentists.
While selling these products to large hospitals might seem to be a tempting proposition, both Freimuth and Posey prefer distributing to medical offices.
This is because hospitals generally opt for the lowest bidder when purchasing printed products, said Freimuth. And that usually doesn't work to an independent distributor's advantage. "Small practices, on the other hand, provide more loyalty," he said.
Posey agreed, adding that hospitals demand a lot of work but only generate small gross profits.
Another factor to consider when selling into health care is technology. For instance, said Freimuth, since laser printers have become so popular, color-coated products have almost disappeared, which hampers the sale of customization pieces.
"Distributors should stress the importance of customization pro-ducts," said Freimuth. "They not only provide better advertising for the client, but better margins for the distributor."
Posey added that many companies are also moving away from paper-based statement mailers to electronic ones, which has resulted in South Shore losing some of that type of business. "Even still, we've managed to retain the same volume," said Posey, adding that health care remains a worthwhile venture.
"We sell well over a million health-care forms a year, so the health-care market can yield great profits," Posey concluded.
By Sharon R. Cole