South Florida Hospital News
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September 2005 - Volume 2 - Issue 3

Closer Healthcare Offers System that Makes Sense for Patients, MDs, and Hospitals

When NetGroup executives began searching for a new name for their mail-order medical supply business, the solution was closer than they realized.

"A name change was well overdue for the company founded 10 years ago in the home of Bruce and Judy Rothenberg," said Readus Smith, president of Closer Healthcare’s commercial subsidiary and a Diplomate of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). "We wanted to find a name that identified with our mission to bring medications closer to the end user."

They found that name in Closer Healthcare, and, after only a few minutes spent talking to Smith, the name change makes all the sense in the world.

"We like to say we bring a solution closer to you," said Smith of the company that provides a wide range of mail-order products for people with chronic conditions, including diabetic testing supplies, ostomy products, and vacuum pump therapy products, to name just a few. "Mail order is a tool that will enable us to get to the next century."

For Closer Healthcare, the next century has arrived as it seeks to be more than a mail-order company and eliminate many of the obstacles to good health that its customers experience in the healthcare arena. "We just don’t want to deliver a box, we want to deliver a solution," said Smith, who is a board-member of the ACHE's committee on Careers and Education, and was recruited to Closer Healthcare about 18 months ago. "We need to embrace the patient, quit blaming the patient for not doing what they should, and get out from behind our desks."

As an executive in healthcare for many years, Smith said he realizes that last part is particularly important. "We sit at our desks and try to come up with solutions without fully realizing what the problems our patients face are," said Smith. "The healthcare system is not as accessible as we think it is. In fact, for the poor and minorities that don’t speak English, the system is extremely difficult." He says the healthcare system seems successful for those with money, but at the lower levels it breaks down and obstacles to good health arise.

To eliminate these obstacles, Closer has a Web site and phone lines for both English and Spanish-speaking customers. Their Web site provides information that their patients can use in everyday life, such as news about cooking classes, healthy recipes, and where to get various medical supplies. The goal is to be part of the solution in keeping their patients healthy – not just sell them a product.

Smith calls this "taking the fight to the home," because he says that’s where the choice to be healthy is made. "Sometimes people are forced to make choices. They have to make a choice between keeping the heat on in the winter and paying for a prescription. That shouldn’t be."

For Closer, it’s as simple as the old saying about an ounce of prevention beating a pound of cure. "We need to quit looking at what a box of diabetes testing strips cost and look at the cost of a stay in the hospital," said Smith. "Under our system, patients get their meds, get a compliance program and get educated. We can take care of a patient for one year for the cost of one trip to the emergency room." Smith, who says he is passionate about this idea because it’s personal for him – 16 family members have diabetes – is using his passion to convince hospitals and physicians to use Closer’s system.

"We have a system set up that will cost a lot less money," he said. "Hospitals who use our system can save 20 percent of their costs. We also provide utilization reports to doctors."

Smith said the physicians he has talked to like Closer’s system because it makes it easier for patients to monitor their health, which in turn keeps them healthier, and costs everyone less money.

"Hospitals need to provide better service for their patients," said Smith, who added that better service includes caring about their patients’ health, not just when they are in the hospital, but also before they arrive and after they are discharged. "We have to get out of this entry-exit mode of healthcare. We need to go home with them."

Readus Smith, president of Closer Healthcare, can be reached at (561) 741-5200, ext. 2003.
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