Armadillos? Van rental fleets? A brave new rehab world

Friday, December 13, 2013

YARMOUTH, Maine – Whether it’s due to the financial realities of providing power mobility at competitive bidding rates or living without Medicare at all, providers say the old way of doing things just doesn’t work anymore.

“It got very hard to make a living as an ATP,” said Ty Soklaski, owner of West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Heroes in Motion. “I was not able to provide patients with what they needed.”

Soklaski left the traditional HME market altogether, shifting the focus of Heroes in Motion to vehicle lifts and home accessibility. He will also begin to sell his own invention, Armadillo Covers, in January.

“I was at a grocery store and it was starting to rain, and I saw a scooter user wrestling with his cover,” he said. “He said, ‘I can’t believe this is the best they can come up with,’ and I took that as a challenge.”

Soklaski created a cover with an aluminum and stainless steel framework for stability, easy-to-use zipper and twice-coated fabric for protection from the elements. Since then, he has also invented a vehicle back-up sensor that will still work if the driver is toting mobility equipment, and a rolling bidet chair. He plans to sell the products through other HME providers.

“I’m not selling these directly to end users,” he said. “Let’s feed our industry.”

Michelle McMahon is also thinking outside the box.

“The wheelchair business is getting more and more difficult, so you’ve got to go after the cash business,” said McMahon, president of Cheyenne, Wy.-based Frontier Access & Mobility. 

Frontier Access & Mobility has long sold mobility vans, but recently decided to rent them out, as well. McMahon in October added a second accessible van to her fleet and officially kicked her rental business into high gear.

Typical customers might rent the van—a $110 prospect, rather than $1,000 for an ambulance ride—to take a relative to an out-of-town doctor appointment or family gathering, or their own van might be in the repair shop, McMahon said. 

“It’s a service that’s needed in this area, and I think we’re going to see a lot of growth,” she said.