In this episode, Dylan McCabe and Reece Norris interview Jenny Dillingham from Metro Medical. Jenny has extensive experience around the specialty biologic landscape and was kind enough to share her knowledge and advice with our podcast audience. Listen as Jenny, Dylan, and Reece discuss the key points you should look for when selecting a specialty distributor(s) for your location. Spoiler alert: it’s not just pricing that matters.
Transcript: How to pick the right distributor with Jenny Dillingham from Metro Medical
Dylan McCabe: WeInfuse podcast, episode number 12. Welcome to the WeInfuse podcast, my name is Dylan McCabe and each week we give you a behind the scenes look at the infusion industry with mostly a provider office infusion suites or standalone infusion suites. For those who want to learn more, we really just want to equip you to build a successful practice and to have a situation where really patients get the best care possible and we like to interview industry experts. The reason I’m excited about this episode is we’re going to interview Jennifer Dillingham from Metro Medical. I know for different practices and providers, they think what’s the difference between Metro and McKesson and Bessie and all these others and a lot of people think, well, it’s just about trying to get the best deal, but it’s really not the case and these different distributors really try to add value in their own unique ways and of course we are absolutely excited about a new strategic alliance WeInfuse has formed with Metro Medical, but more importantly, you’re really going to learn kind of the heartbeat of Metro Medical and what sets them apart from other distributors and just kind of some of the ins and outs of working with a distributor, how you can know what’s going well, kind of how you can apply a report card to your relationship with that distributor and make sure you’re getting the best customer service possible. So without further ado, let’s get into it. Here is the interview with Jennifer Dillingham from Metro medical. Okay, Welcome again and like I mentioned, we do have a special guest on the show today, Jenny Sales Director with Metro Medical and we have our co-host with us, Mr. Reece Norris, one of the founders of WeInfuse. So thank you for being on the show guys.
Reece Norris: Thanks, feels good to be here.
Jennifer Dillingham: Yes, it’s good to be here with you guys. Thank you for having me.
Dylan McCabe: Absolutely and we wanted to do this and at the time of the recording this podcast, we’re at the norm conference here in Tampa, Florida and we wanted to record this because Jenny is with Metro Medical, one of the big distributors that focus a lot on the infusion space and so we just kind of want to get Jenny on the show to talk about changes in trends in the infusion industry, what it’s like from a distributor perspective and just again, give that behind the scenes, look on the infusion space. So before we jump into all that Jenny, why don’t you just take a minute and kind of give like a brief history of Metro Medical for some of our listeners that might not know very much about Metro.
Jennifer Dillingham: Of course. Thank you. So Metro Medical, we are a specialty distributor. We were privately held for over 30 years and were acquired by Cardinal Health in April of 2015. Prior to our main specialties that we had focused on and I say, what kind of built the company, our foundation was the nephrology space and then in 2009, 2010, we decided to explore some other TAs and really what drove that with some key relationships that we had with manufacturer partners that supported that space. They felt that there was a service gap in that Metro, we have that special sauce and that we may have some success with those physician office practices. So in 2009, we committed to the rheumatology space and I was fortunate enough to be a part of that team, working in a sales role for over five years. Today we still have a strong footprint in rheumatology, but we’ve grown and expanded in the community, gastroenterology, neurology, and multi-specialty non-oncology infusion space. So it’s been an exciting journey. Again, we were acquired about three and a half years ago by Cardinal Health and that truly has been such a wonderful relationship. We’ve been able to keep that Metro culture that really does set us apart in some of these therapeutic areas, but we have the resources and the support from a fortune 15 company. So to me, it’s, it’s, it’s been great and I know I’m excited to be a part of that.
Reece Norris: Awesome. I just like to add, so when we operate in infusion centers and this is a cool podcast for me cause we actually purchase our medications from Metro Medical and so our first rep at the time was Adam Malden and then it became Ramy and Ramy is still with the company today and so we still are great colleagues in the industry. So it’s kind of fun to bring it all back.
Jennifer Dillingham: It has, it’s been a fun journey. I’m so fortunate and lucky to lead a sales team, a very tenure sales team. We do have some young reps that have joined us in the last 18 months. We’re growing the team now, but I think our relationships have been so key and especially being here at Norm, the relationships we have with Norm Ventures, with the norm organization as a whole, we have learned so much from the members. For most of us, this was kind of our first time in rheumatology. So it’s been an exciting journey, a lot of changes, a lot of pressures. I think that we’ll talk about later, but just grateful that we still have such a loyal customer base and relationships.
Dylan McCabe: That’s great. Yeah, for some people listening we have doctors that listen, we have entrepreneurs, we have nurses, we have people all across the spectrum listen to this. So for people listening, what would you say really sets Metro apart because there’s Bessie, there’s McKesson and we’re not here to throw stones or anything like that but what’s the heartbeat of Metro? What is it that you guys really live for to make a difference in the lives of your clients?
Jennifer Dillingham: Dylan, that’s a great question. Our colleagues in this space, the other specialty distributors, everyone does a great job. Everyone is committed and we’ve learned a lot from them. We came in last year to this specialty so we had a lot to learn, but I think our customer intimacy is truly what sets us apart and every business says we have great service, we have great customer service, but I think we truly, we live that and we prove that to our customers every day. We have built, like I said, a very solid sales team, tenure sales team and we focus on that one point of contact, that one quarterback for the account, they may not be solving the problem, but they’re going to be who you go to and let us find within that large matrix of a business Cardinal Health Metro Medical, we’ll go find the solution and bring that back to you or connect you with the appropriate party. We work very close with our pharma manufacturer partners on contracting through our GPO cornerstone and not only do we contract with them, we try to help them build those contracts. We’ve had a lot of success in the nephrology space, some in oncology and we’ve taken our learnings and we’ve shifted them into what works and what doesn’t and again on behalf of our members. So I think that’s key. We also have the hybrid model where our reps are not only in the office managing the account from the distribution and GPO side, but they’re out meeting our customers. They’re seeing the practices that we work with, that we shipped drug to every single day. They’re performing that total office call with understanding all of the stakeholders in the office and what their role is and what their challenges are. So we can truly be an extension of the office.
Dylan McCabe: That’s great and I heard earlier that the cornerstone GPO is a top performing GPO.
Jennifer Dillingham: Gosh, I have a great team, I really do. I have a great team. I have wonderful support from our GPO management team at our offices in Nashville, our leadership, it’s an equation, again, I think it is so important that when we begin working with a manufacturer, we commit, we’ve been aligned. We understand what our strategies are and we perform. I always tell our customers is that the question that you should ask is what is your performance track record? Because that’s the facts and there’s nothing to hide that is either you perform or you don’t and our performance is essentially how our practices are successful and we support the community based physician office. So we want you to continue to be successful and when we built these contracts they are to help you grow your business and be able to offer that infusion therapy treatment to that patient in the community setting. So we’ve done well and again, it’s a lot of hard work. It’s understanding the contracts and really educating our customers and being that resource.
Dylan McCabe: That’s great and I like that because, I mean, if you call and need help with something and you have a rep at Metro, you don’t have to worry about calling four different people for four different things. You can call one person. So I think that’s great and of course we’re super excited because WeInfuse and Metro form kind of a strategic relationship; so briefly speak to that.
Jennifer Dillingham: Yes, we are so excited to be working with you guys, as we continue to grow in other therapeutic areas besides rheumatology and we just pull back and look at healthcare in general, I think we can all recognize that technology solutions are going to be key in helping our physician office community practices grow and we recognize there are a lot of synergies with the WeInfuse organization. Culturally we’re very much aligned. You guys get it. So you have a state of the art platform that really manages that patient through that entire treatment life cycle and then post-treatment we bring a best in class distribution service. So it only makes sense for us to partner and for us to help the community.
Reece Norris: Yeah, I can totally agree and we definitely value how they had that one to one and you said, customer client intimacy is obviously what we value too. Culturally we’re so much aligned and I think the sky’s the limit here and we’re super excited to be partnered.
Jennifer Dillingham: Absolutely.
Dylan McCabe: It is, it’s exciting. You guys, those who listen to podcasts, you’re going to hear about it a lot I’m sure because we just want to create synergy and want to add as much value as we can. So, okay, well, let’s get into some of the challenges people face in the infusion industries and amazing things: lives get changed, we all face challenges, it’s an ever evolving landscape that people deal with. So as you, being on the distributor side, seeing changes in trends in the market and all those things, how do you see some of those changes impacting the practices, the provider offices, especially as it relates to pressures with costs?
Reece Norris: There have been a lot of changes, I think we all recognize that practices in infusion business it is there by far largest costs and we hear form more and more groups that it truly is a challenge for them to be able to offer that service to their patients there in the office and we recognize that that truly is the best place for a patient to be treated is if that specialist offers infusions, that’s where they need to be. We recognize they need to be in the community. It is a positive experience for everyone, but more and more of our practices are sharing just the cost of the drugs, the reimbursement, trying to work and manage the payer contracting. So we hear that and we’re very fortunate to have strong business partners, socialize that with our manufacturer partners, but work with the NICI, work with other organizations that we can bring resources to help. I truly feel that there is going to be and there is a need for the community for there to be access in the community for infusions. We see the side of care shift and expansion to where the payers want that patient again in the community and the physician office, but there’s not enough chairs today. So I think a rapidly expanding multispecialty that’s occurring and then more and more of our rheumatology sites are either rebranding or they’re working with the specialists in their areas and they’re expanding and taking referrals. But we recognize that every practice may not have the resources to do that. So our hope is to just to continue to align with them, support them and understand the challenges and hope that we can work in this community that we’re all involved with to help them remain successful.
Dylan McCabe: That’s great. Yeah and as I hear you speak it, I mean, what comes through to me is you guys really kind of want to partner with those practices and partner with those offices to help them grow and that’s what I’ve gotten from the moment I met you guys, you guys were welcoming and friendly. I mean, there’s an expertise that comes in as well, but just that personal touch that even though you guys are part of a massive company, there’s still that feel that it’s a very small company where you really do matter, and you’re not just another number. So that’s what sticks out for me.
Jennifer Dillingham: Thanks for saying that and there’s a lot of pride to hear that, so thank you and that is our goal. We look at every customer, every practice, every provider, every business partner, you truly are a partner in this. It takes two and so we really value that and thank you.
Dylan McCabe: Yeah, and that’s the way it should be. So, well, let’s shift topics here, you know as well as we do that new practices are starting infusion, new infusion sites are opening up and with the changes that you just mentioned, plus all these new practices opening and the new drugs coming down the pike into the infusion space, what are the new needs that you see arising as you deal with all these practices all around the US?
Jennifer Dillingham: I think it goes back to challenges. So I think first and foremost is helping our practices with payer contracting pair negotiations prior authorizations. If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a million times, it is the biggest challenge for these community groups. So how can we definitely help something we’re looking at. Technology again, not just inventory management, but really how can we build and partner with an organization like WeInfuse to help these practices be more efficient with their infusion business? I think that’s key; biosimilars, we know that biosimilars hit the rheumatology specialty a couple of years ago and there hasn’t been much of an uptick there hasn’t been an impact. I do feel, and we are starting to see some of that open up, but it’s definitely the growth that has been a little slower than expected. So I’m trying to understand that landscape. What are the providers’ thoughts? Where are they going to go as we enter 2019, and we are seeing more and more of the formularies change where a biosimilar is included. So I think, again, what’s key is just staying close to our customers, understanding some of the challenges they have and then again, working in our community to how can we all work together? We’re all good at something, right. So how can we come together to better support them? I think that’s going to be key with growth.
Dylan McCabe: Which speaks again to just customer service. Now, when you say you guys would help them, I mean, you mentioned things like prior authorizations and we’re talking about changes in formularies and inventory management and technology, like you mentioned, billing claims and stuff like that. I mean, how do you help them with that? Because somebody may be thinking, oh man, if I go through Metro, are they going to do my benefits investigation process for me?
Jennifer Dillingham: No, no and I don’t think any of us have nailed that yet, but I definitely know it’s on the radar. There’s a lot of companies looking at it like prior authorizations, for example, we’re very much aware, very in touch with that space. So no, while today we don’t have any services, I think what’s important and what the market should know is that we have our finger on the pulse and we want to stay close and we truly want to understand what these challenges are. So as an organization, Cardinal Health, we can take a step back and focus on the impacts, what critical impacts can we make? How can we help our customers? And again, not even in rheumatology, across multiple specialties that are underneath that Cardinal Health specialty umbrella.
Dylan McCabe: Yeah and what stands out to me is that I’ve talked to some of your reps, even over this weekend at the conference and they understand the infusion practice business model. I mean, they understand what’s necessary, they understand numbers, they understand the needs, so they can come alongside these doctors and again, not do it for them or offer consulting services, but you guys provide expertise and oversight that the typical practice may not be used to. That’s what I’ve gotten from you guys is that, I mean, I talked to one rep last night and he was giving me the breakdown on margins for drugs and reimbursements and stuff like that and I was really impressed because a lot of doctors, we come across doctors that call us up and say, hey, well, I want to start infusing, but I don’t know how that works. I don’t know what the benefits investigation process looks like. I don’t know what my reimbursement rates should be and all this stuff and so it’s just great that you guys have the skillset and the knowledge to give some oversight with that as needed.
Jennifer Dillingham: We do and again, I just go back to the network that we’ve built. I hope that we have built strong relationships and credibility in this space to where we don’t know all the answers and we’re not going to know all the answers, but what we will do is we will go find the subject matter expert that can help and we will pull them in. So for example, what we do here at the practice that’s wanting to look at starting up there in an office infusion business. We would probably reach out to the WeInfuse organization and pull in those experts, at least make that connection if they were able to help with that consulting and getting that started. Same thing if we come across the practice that’s struggling with a local payer, that’s wanting to move patients to a different therapy or a different method of delivery of drug. We love pulling in the NRCA, how can you help? So I think that’s what’s key is that we may not have the answer, but we will go out and we will find it and we will connect you with that individual.
Dylan McCabe: Yeah, that’s great. Now let’s change to another subject that some people are interested in and that’s biosimilars. So I know very little about biosimilar. So how has biosimilars changed the infusion industry?
Jennifer Dillingham: Great question; I know that I touched on that just a couple of minutes ago, but today there really hasn’t been a substantial impact with biosimilars. We do have great relationships with both of the manufacturers in this space. We’ve been able to contract with them through our GPO. So we do have competitive access to the products, but you know, really our practice, we hosted a summit in April in Chicago, Illinois and brought together 30 office managers and 30 rheumatologists and we continue to focus on that platform. Biosimilars is one of the subject matters that we focus on and a lot of the docs, they don’t feel the need to make a change. They haven’t had to make a change. They’re still able to keep those stable patients on the reference product. They’re still, for the most part, able to keep the new starts on the reference product. Shift to where we are now entering October, we are starting to see some of the coverage, some of the formularies and pockets of the country open up and require a new starts to be put on a biosimilar. So there more and more practices are starting to move in that direction. They are starting to look at it, but it’s a lot of education. It’s been a challenge. I think education is needed, educating the patient is needed. So it will be interesting, we’ll continue to monitor to see where it goes.
Reece Norris: It’s been new for everybody, it’s new for the payer, it’s new for the distributors, new for the provider and the physician and it’s new for the patient. So you’re rise, it’s taking a while to ramp up and see the change actually hit the market, but we’re starting to see it as well at WeInfuse.
Dylan McCabe: So it’s an ever evolving landscape. All right, well, let’s wrap up with this last topic here and we’ve dealt with challenges we’ve dealt with changes. What would you say are just a few, two or three key practices or key insights that a practice can keep in mind to succeed as they go forward?
Jennifer Dillingham: Great question. Great question. I think first and foremost is investing in your infusion business. What you were able again to offer your patient is special and that truly is where that patient should be seen, where they should be treated. So we want to ensure that you’re able to continue to own that and to manage that and to run that. So I think you have to invest in your infusion business and a couple of things there is technology. I truly think that practices have to begin looking at technology companies that they can partner with to help them with that, to ensure that they’re being efficient, they’re being accurate and they’re optimizing that business. Second, I think it’s key that you have a strong relationship with your specialty distributor and the GPO. I think it’s key to understand the products that you’re using, the contracts that you’re aligned to and ensure that then the GPO, that you’re a part of that they are there working with the manufacturers and they are out there on behalf of its members advocating on how those contracts can be built. They can continue to be restructured reworked as the market changes and as again, as we see biosimilars and other things. So I think just being in touch with the business and ensuring that you’re constantly taking a look at things and making sure you’re being as optimal as needed.
Dylan McCabe: That’s great. Yep and so with all that said, what’s one parting piece of advice for our listeners that are involved in the infusion space, from the perspective of a distributor? What’s one thing you would want our listeners to take away?
Reece Norris: Call Metro.
Jennifer Dillingham: Yeah. Nice. Well, that’s the obvious, but I think honestly, what you bring to your community is special, don’t take it for granted. You are impacting patient’s lives. You are bringing that best in class treatment. So I think it’s critical that just as really an industry that we all continue to partner together, we grow our network, we build our relationships among each other because at the end of the day, we are doing something special and we’re very lucky that we get to do that. So I think we have to take a step back and remember we all have the same goal and just to keep that in mind.
Dylan McCabe: And that’s so good and that comes through in every episode, it really is all about the patient and changing lives. Well, this has been great. I mean, thank you so much for being on the show because you bring a unique perspective and it’s helpful for our listeners. It’s helpful for us and again, we’re super excited to have a strategic alliance with Metro and even increase the value we can all add. So how can people listen to this and want to get in touch with you guys, how can people reach out to Metro and connect with you guys?
Jennifer Dillingham: Oh, great. Well, of course I’d be happy. We’re at the Norm meeting this weekend here in Tampa, Florida, we’ll also be at the American college of rheumatology meeting in a couple of weeks in Chicago, Illinois. So for those that will be there at the meeting, please stop by our booth, come find me, I’ll have a name tag on. I also encourage you to visit our website, metromedicalorder.com, cornerstonepartnersgpo.com, and take a look you’ll find contact information there, but if you see me please come up and tap me and introduce yourself.
Dylan McCabe: And that was metromedicalorders.com.
Jennifer Dillingham: metromedicalorder.com and that’s going to take you to our B2B site and there you’ll be able to kind of can actually dive into our GPOs and find some direct contact information there.
Dylan McCabe: Great. Awesome. Well thank you for being on the show.
Jennifer Dillingham: Thank you guys.
Reece Norris: Thanks.
Dylan McCabe: All right. That concludes our interview with Jenny, from Metro Medical, and we hope you got some nuggets of wisdom from that and of course you can learn more by just contacting Metro Medical, reaching out to the local rep, to learn more on their end, to learn more about WeInfuse as always you can go to our website, you can check out our IV insights blog. You can listen to other podcast episodes and if you don’t have WeInfuse in your office today, definitely go and request a demo. You can see firsthand for yourself, how WeInfuse simplifies the infusion practice workflow in a way that no other platform does today and that’s our goal is to make your life easier to take the confusion out of infusion and also provide best patient care as well. We think our new strategic alliance with WeInfuse and Metro can do that in a better way. So thank you for joining us. This is Dylan McCabe with the WeInfuse podcast and we will catch you in the next episode.
Guest Speaker: Jenny Dillingham, Executive Sales Director at Change Healthcare, has been in the healthcare industry for 15 years. With experience in diabetes care, rheumatology, and gastroenterology, Jenny now focuses on healthcare technology.