NDC Homecare’s Doug Harper helps med/surg distributors enter a new market
Home is where the heart is. It’s also where the patients are heading.
Now, Nashville, Tennessee-based NDC intends to help its members be there too.
Launched in May, NDC Homecare aims to be the partner of choice for the homecare provider, says President Doug Harper. “All of our products, services and solutions are focused only on home care,” he says. “That, and the fact that we do not compete with our customers, are a few of the many ways we differentiate ourselves from our competitors.”
Harper, who took the position in May, knows med/surg distribution and home care. The former president of PSS (now McKesson Medical-Surgical) served as president of Invacare Supply Group (now Cardinal Health) prior to joining NDC.
NDC Homecare stocks home care-specific products – e.g., incontinence, ostomy, wound care, DME, enterals, respiratory – and ships them directly to providers on behalf of NDC members and customers. Those providers include DMEs, visiting nurse associations, home health agencies, hospice providers, etc. In addition, NDC provides its members with marketing collateral, catalogs and other services to help them penetrate the market.
NDC got a jump-start in the business in May by acquiring Dedicated Distribution, a wholesale supplier of home medical equipment and supplies. “They had the [home care] products we needed, but more important, they had home care experience and human resource assets,” says Harper.
What NDC has to offer
A combination of factors led NDC to start its new division, says Harper. The first is the desire for growth. The private equity firm that acquired NDC in 2016 – Court Square Capital Partners – “loved the asset (NDC) they had bought, and wondered what other forms of distribution we could enter using the NDC platform. But the primary driver behind the strategy was the need to provide NDC member distributors with the capability to penetrate this market to stay competitive.”
In addition, many manufacturers, recognizing the growth opportunity in home care, asked NDC for its assistance in the home care market. “The home care division will market exclusively branded products,” he says.
NDC members themselves expressed a desire for assistance entering a growing market. “Most are physician suppliers,” says Harper. “That marketplace has seen tremendous consolidation, and many practices are getting acquired by hospitals and IDNs.” For them, home care represents an opportunity.
Entering a new market without assistance – such as that being offered by NDC Homecare – can be difficult for med/surg suppliers, says Harper. But the fact is, members have a plethora of professional relationships on which they can draw.
“They know the physicians, the home health agencies, the hospice providers, the extended care facilities, but they never solicited their supply business, because that wasn’t their focus. What we’re saying to them is, ‘Use the relationships you have to market your home care offering, and allow us to be your fulfillment partner. We’ll supply the marketing collateral, catalogs and other services you need.’”
NDC Homecare can help members grow the retail side of the business as well, adds Harper. “Co-pays are getting bigger, and people are buying more home care products out of their own pockets. We can offer those products to NDC members who have a retail location. If the member has a website, they can add home care supplies to it, and we will take care of fulfillment to the customer. All they need to do is put a sales and marketing effort together.”
NDC augments its offering to members with contracts and rebates, a group purchasing organization (NuEdge), and robust master distribution agreements, he adds.
Home care providers have faced their share of challenges, including the implementation of national competitive bidding by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, notes Harper. Under this program, providers submit bids to provide certain medical equipment and supplies to people with Medicare living in, or visiting, competitive bidding areas. Medicare uses these bids to set the amount it pays for each item.
“Competitive bidding has dramatically reduced Medicare reimbursement to the DME provider,” he says. Even so, demographics make home care a bright market.
“We are living longer; that’s the good news,” he says. “But we will have health issues. We’d rather be treated in the home, and that’s where payers want us to be treated, too. So everything is saying this market will continue to grow tremendously, even with reimbursement reductions.”
NDC Homecare is offering distributors a chance to work with manufacturers “that have a focus on home care and offer innovation as well as a product portfolio that fits today’s reimbursement,” says Harper. For their part, distributors need to be “very efficient, provide high service levels, innovation, and have an organization that is totally focused on the needs of the home care provider today.
“There’s very little barrier to entry for members using NDC Homecare.”