Trends from the Trades: Home Medical Equipment

Two Safe Solutions (TSS) will appeal to Baby Boomers who are facing a temporary or permanent time of disability.  Boomers like having direct access to products and services that help them achieve their goals of recovery while minimizing ongoing limitations.  We at TSS recognize that home medical equipment  (HME) suppliers in particular will seek to capture sales from Baby Boomers in addition to individuals facing chronic illness.  In this article I will focus on trends affecting HME suppliers.  (Other trends include changes in accessible housing and aggregate or community housing centers).  HME providers need to change how they do business right now.

Recent regulatory changes will require HME suppliers to 1) compete for business according to new Medicare regulations, 2) accept even smaller margins for their products and services, 3) increase reimbursement rates by billing their customers for non-covered balances, and 4) navigate increasing and extremely complex regulations from Medicare, Workers Compensation, and private insurance companies that are killing their businesses, 5) change their focus from the clinician to the client and most importantly 6) increase cash sales.  “Lack of profit will determine if companies will survive,”  states Keith Lilek of A/R Allegiance Group in an interview at last year’s MedTrade event.*

According to the owner of Bill Stelzer Consulting,* more and more HME businesses are understanding that the solution to many of the problems posed by these trends is to increase their focus on retail consumer products in their stores.  And 78 million Baby Boomers who want to live longer and happier are driving the demand for home comfort, pain-free, and home modification products.  Baby Boomers are relying less on healthcare professionals to recommend this solutions for them and seeking them out themselves.

Mike Sperduti* of Emerge Sales adds that providers need to thus re-invent themselves to make direct sales a priority as margins go down.  The game is changing in their industry requiring those who are to succeed to diversify and look for new products to meet the needs of their customers.  HME companies need to look beyond referrals from clinicians to the end-user themselves.  He labels this new model as “upcaring” or getting to know their clients like family members, finding out all of the things that can help to make their lives better, and matching it with new extensions of their product lines beyond durable medical equipment (DME).  These sentiments make Two Step Solutions a great fit for HME suppliers ready to make this shift in their businesses.

Pat O’Brien* of Golden Technologies, maker of lift chairs, power chairs, and scooters, takes a proactive approach in designing their HME storefronts more like a lovely furniture store than a pharmacy-style grocer lined with rows of metal shelves and boxes.  As a Baby Boomer consumer myself, this approach will bode well for those of us seeking a more pleasant shopping experience.  She recommends having  good selection of products to enhance the lifestyle of a customer in addition to the DME:  a process called bundle selling or cross-selling.  I foresee a time coming soon when accessible furniture, bathroom safety fixtures and equipment, and safety electronic devices are displayed alongside other household goods in local retail stores.  That will make life easier for everyone as universal design continues to go mainstream.

Julie, O.T.

* All interviews are from HME News

Slater Gartrell Sports foam purple steps

 

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