Kevin Fisher and his employees at North Coast Home Care play a major role in the health and quality of life for residents of Clatsop and Pacific counties.
What are the primary products and services offered at North Coast Home Care?
“Some of our primary products include Sleep Therapy (CPAP and BiPAP machines and supplies), Home Oxygen, Mobility Equipment (manual and power wheelchairs, electric scooters, power lift chairs, walkers, canes and crutches), Breast Pumps, Medical Supplies (diabetic, incontinence, urological and ostomy), and Lifeline Medical Alert systems.
Our services include delivery, set-up and training, after-hour emergency on-call technicians, insurance billing, and equipment repair.”
Who is your primary demographic?
“We provide products and services to meet home medical equipment needs.
Our clients include the disabled and elderly, hospice patients, those who are injured or chronically ill, and others. Some of our clients we help with regular services and supplies, and others we assist just once or on an as-needed basis.”
Are there any services or products that you wish more customers were aware of?
“Diabetic supplies (blood glucose monitor and test strip systems), SoClean (a fantastic cleaning system for the maintenance of CPAP and BiPAP masks and tubing for our sleep therapy patients), and scooters and lift chairs, which can open up worlds to our patients in terms of mobility and ability to travel. We always have these in stock, and are more than happy to assist customers in selecting the right product for their needs.”
What products seem to be growing in demand?
“Sleep therapy products. Many Americans have undiagnosed sleep apnea. Left untreated, this can drastically effect life and health, and can lead to disastrous consequences, such job loss, divorce, cardiac events or other medical problems, or even death. We are seeing more patients diagnosed with sleep apnea and are pleased to be able to offer a full line of sleep therapy products and services.”
You’ve been in business since 1985, how has home oxygen and medical equipment changed or evolved since then?
“A lot of things have changed about the medical equipment business since the ‘80s, when the company was founded. Portable oxygen systems, for example, have changed dramatically, becoming smaller, lighter, and much more portable. Mobility products also have really evolved. They can turn in small spaces, many are foldable, or come apart easily, making them much easier to load and unload in a vehicle, and travel with.”
Are there any products that have become more affordable or increasingly expensive over the years?
“Probably the most difficult change in recent years has been the decreased insurance reimbursements, which has a lot to do with how affordable or expensive it is for us to provide services. Insurance companies have cut the amounts they will reimburse us, and in some cases, these cuts have been so drastic, we have not been able to provide certain products anymore as the insurance allowable was lower than our cost to buy the product. It is difficult when a patient’s doctor orders something for them and we are unable to provide it. Just because a patient has medical need for a product, and their doctor has ordered it, does not mean that their insurance will necessarily approve or cover that product.
Due to changes in the definitions insurance companies use for medical need criteria, and a much stricter adherence to those sets of criteria, we sometimes have trouble providing equipment or services to patients. We always do our best to work with patients and their care providers to get them what they need.”
What impact did the 2008 recession have on your business?
“More than anything, what has impacted our business the most are the changes to insurance allowables and coverage.”
What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?
“Helping people, for sure. We contract with local hospices so that people can be at home with their family for end of life care, if they choose. We provide and deliver the equipment needed, such as electric hospital beds, and wheelchairs.
Our mobility products vastly increase quality of life for those with difficulty moving or walking. Our products can enable people to get out of their homes, travel, and engage in their communities.
Our sleep therapy services can make a tremendous difference in the lives of those with sleep apnea. Because sleep is so foundational, we hear stories of people feeling rested for the first time in years, enjoying their lives again, improving their relationships and job performance, and being safer behind the wheel.
The factor that all of our products and services have in common is their ability to improve people’s lives. That’s what we’re here for and why we come to work each day.”
Any particular stories you care to share?
“One of our favorite stories happened several years ago when we had the privilege of working with a patient with quadriplegia. The client was paralyzed from the neck down, in a wheelchair, and unable to do anything on their own. Due to the fact that a standard joystick is fitted on the armrest of a power chair, the client was unable to even drive their wheelchair. We remodeled the power wheelchair, installing a tilt system and a mini joystick that the patient could operate with their chin. We also installed a mode switch they could bump with their head, and thereby toggle through a menu of options. With these changes made to the patient’s power wheelchair, the patient was empowered to operate the TV, recline their wheelchair, drive the chair, open the door to their home, and go outside. If they wanted to, they could even drive their chair over to their neighbor’s house for a visit. This was a particularly rewarding case as the patient’s quality of life was drastically improved.
The home medical equipment industry is not an easy one to be in, but stories like this are what make our job rewarding.”