Another positive sign for HME industry? Fresh faces

Monday, January 25, 2016

It has been said that our industry is shrinking, which I do believe has some truths. I, however, see our industry in a more transformative state, with new products, new services and new ideas. And now, with a new wave of young people ready, excited and passionate about entering it.

Recently, I was asked to return to my alma mater, Western New England University in Springfield, Mass., to speak to students of its newly developed major, pharmaceutical business. The university created the School of Pharmacy about four years ago, and soon realized that there was significant interest from business students. This interest spun into the pharmaceutical business major. Students in this major study everything from marketing and business management, all the way through to healthcare finance and fundamentals of pharmacy. I should point out that this major is not at all limited or strictly focused on just pharmacies—it covers all areas of health care.

The university asked me to talk about how I got into the industry and my experience. I told the story of how working at a golf course provided me the opportunity to join the medical products industry as an intern working for Invacare Supply Group and how that internship turned into a full-time position. A golf course? Yes, a golf course. One of the students asked how a golf course had anything to do with medical products. I told them, “Simple—opportunity.”

I went on to talk about many other things like industry challenges, what is coming down the road, and what we do at Geriatric Medical. After I finished, I was overwhelmed with the questions and comments students had. Even more than that, I was surprised by how many of them knew exactly what they wanted to do after graduation. One student talked about her passion for running, and how she wanted to work with prosthetics or medical products that would help people walk, run, move and live the life they wanted. Another student worked with a DME company in Massachusetts as an intern, and was looking to expand that internship into a full-time position. The one constant in the room was that every single one of the students that was there wanted to be in the medical products/health industry.

Opportunity is a funny thing. Sometimes it hides itself behind “turmoil.” Opportunity can be working at a golf course and finding an internship at a medical distribution company. Opportunity can be attending a guest-speaking lecture given by an alum in your area of interest. Opportunity can be tough regulation and reimbursement cuts to an industry.

Our industry is facing tough times and likely more tough times are coming, but I’m a big believer in opportunity. Our industry now has an opportunity to take advantage of change, and turn it into something great.

We have all heard the saying that life only has two promises, death and taxes. Well, I’m here to tell you that life now has two more promises. The first, that the patients we all serve aren’t going anywhere; in fact, the meat and potatoes of the baby boomer generation hasn’t even hit, and when it does, more and more of them will be willing to pay out of pocket for supplies.  Secondly, I promise you that there is a new generation of passionate, diligent and fresh students eager to get into this space, and I can tell you this because I met 14 of them firsthand at my alma mater.

I closed my presentation by telling students that you can’t predict where an opportunity will come from, but when it does present itself, you have to take that chance and walk through that door and see what is on the other side, a thought that I hope resonates with all of us.

Justin Racine is director of marketing & ecommerce for Geriatric Medical. He can be reached at