By Alexander Germanis
For some people, a job is not just a place to go every morning in order to simply feel like they’ve accomplished something for the day. For some people, it is not just a way of earning an income. For some people, like the Rousey family, a job is about more than making a living, it is about help-ing others live.
As proof of that business philosophy, Kate Rousey established Heartland Home Medical Supply, Inc. in 2004. Since that time, it has been the unceasing goal of the Rousey family business to offer patients, caregivers, families, and consumers the ability to have access to quality products and education and to be a resource for their continued healthcare needs.
Established in April of 2015 and mirroring that goal, is their parallel business of Heartland Home Medical Retail Outlet, Inc.
Adapting to Change
Located within Heartland Home Medical Supply at 716 E. Empire St. in Bloomington, is Heartland Home Medical Retail Outlet — a direct answer to the major changes in the nation’s medical system.
“After 28 years in the home medical equipment industry and 11 years in the operation of Heartland Home Medical Supply, I have seen many changes in insurance reimbursement,” Kate says. “But now things have changed drastically with Medicare and basically all insurances, so we decided to make the retail a separate business.”
On January 2016, one of those drastic changes was the implementation of a competitive bidding program. This resulted in a cut of Heartland Home Medical’s Medicare reimbursement by 25 percent, with an additional cut coming in July 2016.
Drastic changes in the nation’s healthcare are not limited to Medicare issues, either; they are also linked to age. “When I first started in this business, you rarely saw anybody under 65,” Kate states. “Now, only 25 percent [of our customers] are Medicare age.”
Aside from the major shift in age for those needing more healthcare help, the majority of insurance plans also have extremely high deductibles, “leaving consumers to be more conscientious about how to spend their healthcare dollars,” Kate says.
A Conscientious Choice
As these healthcare changes have taken place, chain stores and internet sellers dealing in home medical equipment have grown like weeds in order to grab those dollars. “The problem is,” Kate says, “no one is there to answer questions, properly fit them, or make sure that they can properly use it. Purchasing and using inappropriate equipment can be dangerous.”
For example, a 350-pound person buys a bath seat or a four-wheeled walker with a 250 pound weight capacity or they can’t properly use the brakes on the walker, the equipment meant to help them can now easily cause them serious injury.
“The same problem goes for internet purchases,” Kate adds. “We have so many people asking for help after they have purchased an item from the internet and it breaks or isn’t appropriate for them.”
That is what raises Heartland Home Medical Retail Outlet above the competition. “It’s more than just retail,” she says. “We are about educating people about the safe and proper use of what they are buying. We ask questions to ensure that what they are buying is appropriate for their size, weight, diagnosis, and home environment. We fit them to the product and have them demonstrate that they can function properly when using it.”
It may be hard for them, as a small business, to compete with the chain stores and the internet as far as pricing goes, “But we are in a different class,” Kate adds. “We offer personal customer service, experience, knowledge, education, and quality products. We are a resource for not just retail products, but for home medical equipment and supply needs.”
An example of one of those medical needs is noticeable as soon as you walk in to Heartland Home Medical Retail Outlet. Full size shower, toilet, and bathtub displays feature a variety of bathroom safety aids. Designed and constructed by Kate’s husband, Larry Rousey, the displays allow customers to not only see what they are buying, but if it will fit into their home, try it out, and get advice regarding installation and what products will work best for them.
The myriad bathroom aids are joined by displays of walkers, walker accessories, canes of different colors and styles, seat cushions, pillows, incontinence supplies, bed safety rails, assistive devices for the car and home, CPAP machines and masks, wheelchairs, and oxygen tanks. In the center of the room is a variety of seat-lift chairs of all sizes, brands, and colors. And if you cannot see what you want, the staff can find it for you.
Furthermore, should there be an issue with any of the equipment you purchase, Heartland Home Medical has a team of maintenance technicians who can troubleshoot and repair or send out for replacements for anything needed.
A Dying Art
Displays are not the only thing someone sees when entering Heartland Home Medical. “You walk in the door and the first person you see is one of our daughters,” Larry Rousey says. “Two more daughters are in the billing office. Purchasing is either myself or my son.”
“Both businesses are a family operation, beginning with customer service all the way through purchasing,” Kate says. Besides the rest of the family: Mark, Brandi, Sarah, Kaeleigh and Alexia; the other key employees to making Heartland a success are the HME technicians, Seth Reynolds and Jim Soeldner; and respiratory therapists Amy Sears, RRT, Erin Glass, RRT, and Darren Barnhill, RRT.
“People really like that [family aspect]” Kate continues, “because they come in and they know, ‘Oh, that’s your mom, that’s your dad, that’s your daughter.’ They know the family is invested in it.”
That investment is as much emotional as it is temporal. “Kate’s always been compassionate,” Larry states, “probably more than what she has to be: taking time with people, explaining things, and getting emotionally involved.”
It all boils down to customer service. In a rapidly changing and, some may say, declining civilization, customer service is truly becoming a thing of the past. To the Rousey family, the significant part of that service is making certain every person who comes into Heartland Home Medical walks out with more than just an item, they leave with their dignity intact or sometimes even restored.
“When you’re talking to somebody who’s aging but they don’t want to be aging, it’s hard,” Kate says. “So you have to be sensitive to what’s going on.”
That sensitivity and respect is paramount to good customer service and that is what the staff at Heartland Home Medical continuously strives. “I always tell people I’m a terrible business person,” Kate says, “because the bottom line is not the main reason [we do this]. We get to know people; it’s just always been that way. We’ve got a mom and pop mentality rather than a big box mentality. Some people appreciate that.”
A mom and pop mentality is reflective of home, and the customer’s home is what Kate’s business is all about.
“It is our experience that most individuals prefer to be in their own home,” Kate concludes, “whether it is to recover after surgery, illness, injury, or to continue to age in place. At Heartland Home Medical Retail Outlet and Heartland Home Medical Supply our objective is to assist each individual in achieving their goals by supplying quality service, products, and equipment that will help each individual to remain active, independent, healthy, and safe in their homes, whether it is for a short-term need or long-term.”
You may contact Heartland Home Medical Supply and Retail Outlet at 309-829-8122 or visit them online at www.heartlandhms.com. They are located in Constitution Place at 716 E. Empire, Suite 2, next to the Constitution Trail.
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