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The Supply Store, Reinvented

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An Indiana hospital caters to patients' needs and boosts revenue with its new home care store.

Although they provide essential products for patients, medical supply stores aren't known for being customer-friendly. Such stores often feature unattractive stacks of products, intrusive signage, and limited privacy. At least that's what Memorial Health System found when a team from the South Bend, IN, hospital system looked for a home care store on which to model its own. When Memorial Health outgrew its home care supply store two years ago, Vice President of Marketing and Innovation Strategy Diane Stover and her team set out to build a store that would serve patients' supply needs while still providing an atmosphere of privacy and comfort.

"For the most part, people who were coming into our home care store were coming in for bumps in the road—it wasn't a happy thing. We thought, 'How can we take this stressful situation and somehow soften it or complement it with points of beauty?'" Stover says.

Rather than organize the store by disease, Memorial organized its store by five areas of living: Live Well, Breathe Well, Move Well, Heal Well, and Sleep Well. For example, the Move Well section includes mobility supplies such as wheelchairs and crutches. Breathe Well includes tubes and breathing apparatus, and Live Well features supplies not related to illness, like sun-protection clothing, hats, and umbrellas.

The store became a blend of art and science, Stover says. In addition to supplies, it sells artwork, and the walls are covered with uplifting quotes and photographs of patients. "We really wanted to look at preventive care and atmosphere so that when people come in, it's more than just coming in and picking up a supply; it's an experience," says Deb McCann, Memorial's director for equipment supplies division.

The changes to Memorial's home care store have attracted a new mix of customers and created a new source of revenue for the system and its 526-licensed-bed hospital. Referrals to the store have increased by 50%, and store traffic doubled to more than 100 customers a day, McCann says. When the store opened in April 2007, Memorial leaders projected a 20% revenue increase within a year—they surpassed that goal in the first six months.

Molly Rowe

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