Whether a result of an injury or compensating for a permanent physical change, nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population has used some sort of durable medical equipment in the past year. Billions of dollars are spent annually to help growing numbers of people go about their daily lives.
Joel Swartz and Marty Metz know those statistics well.
Their Lenexa-based company, Advanced Medical Solutions, works to meet the needs of patients in the Kansas City area and nationally. And the durable medical goods provider is riding the industry’s growth trend — the company has outgrown its 4,500-square-foot facility.
“What we are planning on doing is buying a building in the future,” Swartz said.
Q: Explain the breadth of what Advanced Medical Solutions provides.
“The main things we offer are durable medical equipment,” Swartz said. “We carry anywhere from braces with lower and upper extremities to continuous passive motion machines and knee walkers. Things across the spectrum for rehabilitation.
“And we do a fair amount of breast pumps for new moms,” Metz said.
Other items include deep vein thrombosis circulation equipment and hot and cold circulating devices.
Items can be either rented or purchased, depending on insurance stipulations, Swartz said. However, most durable medical equipment is typically covered by insurance and is purchased.
“If it is not covered we will work out arrangements,” Metz said.
Q: Who are your customers and how do you get them?
The company works with individual customers and with the medical industry.
“We work with rehab facilities, occupational and therapy locations, we work with surgeons and supply them with the appropriate bracing and devices for the end user,” Swartz said.
Metz works with several sales representatives tap into health care practicess — both doctors and therapists — convincing them to order equipment from Advanced Medical. Most of its customer base has been built through past relationships Swartz and Metz had developed in the medical community.
“Building those relations with that surgeon and physical therapist is important,” Swartz said.
“They know if they can trust you and you’re reliable, you are all working together,” Metz said. “We also rely heavily on word of mouth.”
Q: What is your prior business experience?
Both Swartz and Metz have extensive experience in the medical equipment industry but with different companies.
Swartz worked for a California surgical equipment company and later moved to this area as an independent representative.
“I came out to Kansas City with that company in 2000 as territory manager,” he said. In 2008, Swartz decided to pursue another direction. He represented other products and companies that helped bridge the income gap until he started Advanced Medical in 2010.
“The territory I had been covering was very large so it was nice to just be here in one place,” he said.
Metz took a different path. He was a trained paramedic with Johnson County Med-Act for about seven years.
“That’s when I decided I wanted to get into medical sales,” Metz said. “I ended up becoming an independent rep for therapy beds.”
Metz stayed with that company as it added injectable products for the knee. His next step included an ownership interest in Pro-motion Medical Technologies as well as picking up several independent product lines.
“There were a lot of travel and late nights involved,” Metz said.
Q: How and why did you start Advanced Medical?
“With my previous experience, I saw an opportunity to service these surgeons and patients with durable medical equipment,” Swartz said. “I thought it was a good opportunity to focus on rehab products and breast pumps.”
Swartz relished the idea of running his own business.
“I always enjoyed being independent and looking for different opportunities,” he said. “I learned from a former employer how the industry worked...I dove in head-first.”
Swartz approached area surgeons as his first customers to get the company up and running.
Over the years, Swartz and Metz crossed paths
“I didn’t have an office so I would even store things at Joel’s,” Metz said. About two years ago, the pair decided to merge their businesses.
The co-owners haven’t looked back since. Swartz is president and chief executive; Metz is vice president.
“It benefitted both of us,” Metz said. “Joining forces has made it better for everybody.”
“Being from California, I have maintained a network,” Swartz said. “By merging, Marty could focus on the opportunities here while I focused nationally on growing our business.”
Q: Inventory — what’s in it and how do you manage it?
Advanced Medical has nearly 3,000 units in stock. In addition, the company stores some goods in area doctors’ offices and physical and occupational therapists’ clinics “so patients don’t have to wait for it,” Swartz said.
“With certain products we stock a fair amount,” Metz said. “Some items are on rental that we don’t have to repurchase...but we always have to maintain the soft goods that are discarded — things like an arm sling and lambskin covers.”
With such a variety of products in its inventory, Advanced Medical relies on a computerized tracking system.
“Where it really comes into place is the rental portion — we need to know how long a piece of equipment or device has been out there and when to pick that up,” Swartz said. “As we grow we have to really pay attention to this because the equipment is expensive.”
Advanced Medical has one employee dedicated to handling inventory and purchasing of products.
Q: How do you address the competition?
“We build those relationships through customer service and being reliable and being a resource,” for customers, Swartz said.
But, building those relationships is not easy, especially in an industry that is fiercely competitive.
“It is becoming more difficult to get time to spend with a doctor to show him a product,” Metz said. That’s where the sales reps come in.
“The reps are our blood line,” Metz said. “Most of them have been in the industry as long as I have and they are dependable and reliable.”
Q: What does the future hold for Advanced Medical?
The company has 14 employees in Lenexa plus a network of 50 independent sales representatives nationally.
“We are doing stuff all over country,” Swartz said. “We hope to continue to grow... We are looking at certain products as the industry and technology changes and looking for the right products.”
“The goal is to increase the Kansas City market, too,” Metz added. “We have one product we are launching now and a new product in two weeks. We are getting in front of different therapy centers and clinics.”
In a nutshell
COMPANY: Advanced Medical Solutions
ADDRESS: 21957 W. 83rd St., Lenexa,