Boomers drive home accessibility market

Friday, September 26, 2014

The age of baby boomer retirement and that generation’s need for homecare services is finally dawning and it offers great commercial potential for HME providers ready to expand into home accessibility. As part of a holistic business model serving the huge emerging senior population, home accessibility dovetails with all the major HME product categories.

Home accessibility is a long-established service and demand has been steady for decades. But it does represent a new horizon for an HME industry that largely eschewed this segment before Medicare became an estranged program for many. Ramps, lifts, elevators, guardrails and bath safety products have traditionally defined the market, but automation technology also represents a new dimension in monitoring and safeguarding, accessibility specialists say.

By and large, the boomers are coming and they want services to make their homes safer and more accessible, says Kay Koch, rehab clinical manager for Elyria, Ohio-based Invacare.

“Baby boomers are coming of age and current statistics show that people over 65 want to spend their remaining years in their homes,” she says. “This population often needs homecare products to increase safety in the home and assist them or their caregivers in daily living activities. These products can be used to augment the items they may already be renting or purchased from the provider.”

Dave Henderson, senior marketing analyst for Algona, Wash.-based EZ-Access, sees an enormous upside for HME providers who think outside the box.

“When strategized correctly, HME providers can see a definite increase in cash sales and, ultimately, profitability,” he says. “Two considerations that will help them become more profitable are valuing their time and offering rental programs. Often providers lose potential margin on a product because they give it away on labor and the rental option helps those who cannot afford the purchase price but can make monthly payments. This will create a steady reoccurring stream of cash each month that requires little effort from the provider.”

Creating an edge

There is no reason why HME providers can’t own the home accessibility market, says Fred Jensen, vice president of sales and marketing for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based PVI. By capturing patients in mobility, rehab, respiratory and bariatrics, he maintains that the HME provider is best positioned to be a one-stop shop for those patients’ accessibility needs.

“HME providers who do not provide access are closing the door to clients and opening the door to the competitor who does offer it,” Jensen says. “It is a revenue stream that HME providers should not look past. It is an evolving, maturing marketplace that will be a missed opportunity if they do not pursue it.”

National complex rehab companies are starting to take control of ramp and lift installation because it just makes sense for them to do so, Jensen says.

“There is no reason in the world for a technician or delivery person to not be able to gain ideas for helping end users be more accessible in their homes,” he says.

Henderson adds that serving patients’ clinical needs gives HME providers an established advantage.

“One of the main differentiators HME providers have over contractors is the care factor and understanding of diagnosis, prognosis and what the progressive effects will be,” he says. “HME providers have a definite advantage in knowing the equipment that is available and having connections with a multitude of vendors through buying groups and associations.”

Know the business

Home medical equipment and home accessibility have a lot of synergy and it is up to the provider to determine how they fit together, how to handle the services required and how to package them as a complete homecare solution, Henderson says.

“It requires a well-planned out and executed strategy,” he says. “It means understanding the full range of needs that are involved and providing solutions for each of those needs. The solutions involve having both the equipment and the resources to install and maintain the equipment. It is about serving the entire need.”

To be sure, providers need to capitalize on capturing the patient’s menu of needs by delivering a suite of products and services that address those demands, Jensen says.

“It is not difficult to become a complete accessibility provider,” he says. “Smart systems are out of the box. Smart technology is driven by the complex rehab side and many chairs have it built in.”

Big-box retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe’s may carry certain home accessibility items, but they are not stiff competition for a dedicated HME provider, Jensen says.

“The sale, delivery and repair of equipment is the beginning and the end of access,” he says. “HME providers are in the perfect position to control this market.”