LIKELY, YOU TREAT many patients within your practice who would benefit from consistent wear of graduated compression stockings. Perhaps you already recommend graduated compression stockings to your patients and wonder how to increase patient compliance. Have you considered that you may have a way to provide benefits to both your patients and your practice by offering these stockings directly to patients within your practice?
The use of compression therapy, primarily through the wearing of graduated compression stockings, has become an essential therapeutic device in the phlebologist’s arsenal. Having practiced phlebology in a primary care setting for over 25 years, I have seen firsthand the improvement in a patient’s outcome when graduated compression stockings are conveniently provided directly to her.
Typically, we help patients don their hoses immediately after their procedures. Doing so allows the staff to provide current and practical donning instructions to the patient and to establish an accurate and precise fit. All our staff is cross-trained on how to place stockings and on how to educate patients.
Patient education is paramount in correctly fitting and donning graduated compression stockings. Therefore, it is imperative that all staff in our practice are knowledgeable about graduated compression stockings and are capable of educating patients and answering questions with precision. Patients benefit from our team’s assistance with donning hose. It has been our experience that our patients appreciate the convenience, immediate obtainment of the correct stockings, and the guidance and expertise of our staff.
All our phlebology patients, without contraindications, are given a script for graduated compression stockings and are offered a choice to purchase with us or elsewhere. A list of medical supply stores that sell graduated compression stockings is given, along with a prescription. We provide purchase information for patients to self source the donning device we use. There is zero pressure to fill their scripts with us. However, in our experience, roughly 80% of patients purchase stockings from our office. Those that do not do so initially often come back and get them later after shopping elsewhere. We attribute this high conversion rate to service and personal attention.
Physicians in this field often find that the biggest issue with graduated compression stockings is patient compliance and follow-through. We found a way to improve compliance and create an additional revenue source by making these stockings available in our office. By providing convenience, personal touch, and medical expertise directly to the patient at the time of service, we found a marked increase in compliance.
As we know, the power of a doctor’s words remains strong. If a patient’s doctor stresses the importance of compression stockings, patients will often do their best to comply. Your staff should also be on the same informational page and support the doctors’ recommendations, as some patients may still have questions or concerns. Well-informed staff who can address these concerns appropriately can positively affect compliance levels. This is another reason it is imperative to cross-train all staff.
At our practice, we initially started carrying hose per patient requests. What began as an experiment grew into our office keeping a large inventory. By holding inventory stock, we can negotiate better bulk pricing with the manufacturers, thereby keeping markup reasonable and the price competitive. More importantly, having inventory guarantees that the patient will have the exact graduated compression stocking needed on the day of the procedure. Few health insurance companies cover the cost of stockings, but we process claims for patients after obtaining coverage information.
Establishing a stocking supply requires some upfront investment, but it is well worth the effort. Selling graduated compression stockings will add value to your bottom line, but what is of greater importance is that it provides another interaction with your patient and an opportunity to demonstrate the quality of your care. Service, patience, flexibility, and compassion are essential components to keep in mind when dealing with patients. Even though the financial gain may not be a windfall, offering this service will help establish a better rapport with the patient, resulting in further promotion of the practice.
Fortunately, the major stocking companies are willing to assist offices that wish to establish an in-office stocking inventory. It can be a win-win situation. Research compression stocking companies and reach out to them to meet with you and your staff to explore the opportunity and potential partnerships. I suggest you start with a small inventory of compression stockings and test the waters. Assign a couple of staff members to “stocking duty” to take ownership of selling and handing them to patients.
Know your demographic, so you may order the correct size range of stockings. As you grow this aspect of your service, be patient. This type of stocking is often a new concept to many patients, even though needed, and some vanity may also influence their initial reluctance.
Generally, markup is around 100%. Initially, in-corporate an in-office inventory by limiting the stocking inventory to a durable, good-quality one with an acceptable color. You will want the hose to last around six months and not tear at the first donning. Accurate patient measurement is key to compliance, so measure, measure, measure! Patients will not wear an uncomfortable or ill-fitting hose. Graduated compression stockings cannot be given to the patient without precise measurements and body type consideration.
Although offering hose is an opportunity to create a modest return on your investment, the prevailing reason to consider offering graduated compression stockings is to provide a welcome and valuable service to your patients. They will vastly benefit from correctly sized, high-quality graduated compression stocking products conveniently offered with personable service from a specialist doctor and her trained staff. As stated previously, offering this service may not provide a significant source of income, the added convenience to your patients along with another income stream might be a welcome addition to your practice.