When the state of Massachusetts reviewed medical products distributors for a “preferred supplier,” it chose regional mid-size firm Geriatric Medical for its mix of services as well as products and pricing.

Geriatric Medical and Surgical Supply Inc., a third-generation family-owned distributor, has steadily increased its e-commerce sales over the past several years to where they now account for more than 80% of total revenue.

Its online strategy is all about giving client hospitals and nursing homes what they need to do their jobs better, says Justin Racine, director of marketing and e-commerce. “We’re focused on providing the online content and order-flow processing that our customers are looking for,” he says.

We’re living proof that any online distributor can win against any competitor.
Justin Racine, director, marketing and e-commerce
Geriatric Medical

Justin Racine, director of marketing and e-commerce, Geriatric Medical

That focus played a big role last month when Geriatric Medical won its bid to become the preferred supplier of a category of medical supplies under a state-wide contract awarded by the Executive Office of Health & Human Services in Massachusetts, says Geriatric Medical CEO Jeffrey Siegel. The three-year contract—under which the distributor has agreed to supply incontinence products to healthcare facilities throughout the state that care for nearly 2 million people covered by Medicaid health insurance—is expected to save the state $3.7 million per year, according to a document issued by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the agency that awarded the contract and administers the Medicaid program, known as MassHealth.

Healthcare facilities participating in the MassHealth program will still be free to purchase incontinence products from other suppliers, though the state has recommended they purchase from Geriatric Medical for the best mix of product, pricing and service. “Geriatric Medical will work with the Executive Office of Health & Human Services to ensure that MassHealth members will receive clinically superior products at a lower overall cost to the Medicaid program while maintaining the vital services of the existing provider network,” the distributor says in a press release posted to its website and approved by the state. The state doesn’t directly comment publicly on contracts or bids, a spokesman says. The names of other bidders for the contract were not available.

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To stand out against other, often much larger, competitors, Geriatric Medical has developed a policy of serving as a business advisor as well as product supplier to its customers, Racine says. Suppliers like Amazon.com Inc., which has been making overtures in medical supplies distribution, and other large distributors may offer lower prices, Racine says. But Geriatric Medical strives to stand out with specialized services, he adds.

“We’re not worried from an Amazon standpoint,” he says. “Their site is vast and focused on so many areas, and they work from a price point that gets them into a market. But we’re focused on creating specialized services that Amazon can’t touch.”

Racine noted two examples of the services Geriatric Medical provides, each of which is designed to help healthcare facilities provide better care and abide by strict government regulations.

One deals with a regulation regarding the safety of bed rails. The distributor developed a webinar and other educational materials detailing how beds must be designed in a way that secures the mattress while preventing patients from getting caught between the rails. Its educational materials also include information on products Geriatric Medical sells that test the beds to ensure they comply with safety regulations.

Another service involves educating health facility personnel on how to abide by strict regulations for cleaning and disinfecting particular areas. Required cleansers or disinfectants and how they’re applied can differ based on the area, such as a patient’s room versus a food service kitchen, and Geriatric Medical provides webinars and other materials to show what personnel must do to ensure their facility passes inspections by health officials, Racine says.

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The distributor typically sells a range of products in each category based on “good, better, best” with prices that vary accordingly, and it helps each customer match its needs and budget with the most appropriate products, he adds. “We’re the experts knowing the product mix, and we play the matchmaker,” he says.

The company’s focus on service while offering more than 30,000 branded products online has helped it to grow its e-commerce sales from about 50% of revenue four years ago to about 85% today, Racine says. The remaining sales come from phone and EDI orders. “We’re living proof that any online distributor can win against any competitor,” he says. The privately held company doesn’t release revenue figures.

Going forward, Geriatric Medical realizes that it will need to keep improving its services as other online as well as offline distributors become more competitive. For example, one envisioned service would share with customers information it compiles on the effectiveness of particular healthcare products. “We want to get to the point where we can show if this type of wound-care dressing will improve care and result in a reduced hospital readmission rate,” Racine says.

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