Compassion and competence key for pediatrics

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Serving the pediatrics market requires a special dedication from providers. Whether it’s for mobility, respiratory or rehab, referral sources need to be confident that their patients are in the hands of an HME provider who displays sensitivity along with keen product knowledge.

By plugging into the vendor community’s expanding sales network, manufacturers say pediatric providers should be able to effectively spread their message of compassion and competence in serving juvenile patients. Before launching a marketing blitz however, providers need to seek out and bond with those clinicians who have committed themselves to serving children’s medical needs. That means getting involved in organizations that are important to them, said Janet Princing, marketing communications manager for Bridgeport, Mich.-based Amigo Mobility.

Pediatricians are primary referral sources, so providers should become familiar with the hospitals and clinics where they work. Non-profit associations geared toward helping children with disabilities also offer access to referral sources, patients and their families. Once acquainted, providers need to explain how home medical equipment can improve pediatric patients’ lives, Princing said.

“Discuss the importance of allowing children the ability to maintain normal daily activities and schedules,” she said. “Inform the organizations that these products exist and can enhance a child’s self esteem by enabling them to participate in everyday activities.”

Demonstrating product expertise to referral sources may seem like a rudimentary exercise, but Dale Krauskopf has seen his share of provider missteps in this area. The president of Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Global Power Systems said he has clearly learned what referral sources don’t want.

“They don’t want product demonstrations by somebody who doesn’t know the product,” he said. “I’ve seen instances where the provider sent a rep who didn’t know even simple things like adjusting the controller and seat adjustment.”

While technical expertise is paramount in getting referrals, Krauskopf also emphasized that providers must have strong communication skills.

“Parents and family members are a major part of serving the pediatric market, so it is essential that you give them information they can trust,” he said. “Too often there is a problem with conveying accurate messages. Information tends to get confused down the line, which can cause the parents to become very distressed.”

Once connected to the clinical establishment, providers can use various methods to market their products and services, such as inservices and workshops on the benefits of pediatric products, exhibiting at consumer medical product expos, direct mail and mass media advertising on shows tailored to children.

Appealing to children’s enjoyment of storybooks, Murrysville, Pa.-based Respironics has developed a themed program to help educate asthmatic children and their families about the disease. Called “Zoey and the Zones,” the concept is based on a character named Zoey, a sports car with asthma, and his sidekick Light Buddy, a traffic light who represents the asthma zone management system.

The imaginary characters are designed to help inform and educate children in conjunction with the asthma management tools they use most. Parents also have an accompanying manual that outlines treatment and therapy strategies.

“We introduced this program last year and it has been very exciting,” said Mark Elphick with Respironics’ Asthma and Allergy division in Cedar Grove, N.J. “It’s a way for providers to position their business with referral sources so that they understand the company provides more than just product. They also offer the educational tools to help patients better manage their asthma.”

To keep the provider’s name in front of referral sources, Respironics has literature, instructional wall posters and prescription pads that detail the company’s services. By using these materials to expand their relationship with pediatricians, providers can influence the referral source’s approach to product prescription, Elphick said.

“Most asthma products are prescribed to pharmacists, but you can get them to prescribe to you,” he said. “Let them know you are the source for a mix of products, such as peak flow meters and spacers as well as nebulizers.”

Because pediatricians are always looking for new and better ways to make young patients more comfortable with medical equipment, introducing new “patient friendly” technology is an effective attention-getter with referral sources, said John Snobarger, director of sales for Louisville, Colo.-based PDS/Ferraris Cardiorespiratory.

“In the pediatric market, if a product isn’t patient friendly, it won’t get used,” he said. “We help providers by giving them products that pediatricians are willing to prescribe for their kids and that the kids will accept.”

For example, the PEKA flow meter, launched in May, has been scaled back to the size of three quarters while maintaining the same output as much larger units, Snobarger said.

“Because it’s a lot smaller, it won’t frighten kids,” he said. “It sells for the same price as the mechanical deep flow meter. It’s the only one like it in the world.”

Letting children customize their own equipment also eases the intimidation factor, which is why Amigo developed RT Express Junior scooter.

“Customization lets children know that the product is being designed specifically for them,” Princing said. “By giving them choices for color options and [style] selections, they can tailor the product to their needs and personality.”

Physical and occupational therapists are key referral sources on the rehab side of pediatrics and providers need to be in tune with their product preferences. To address PT/OT concerns about product cleanliness, Bolingbrook, Ill.-based Sammons Preston Roylan is rolling out its TumbleForms 2 seating line featuring antimicrobial coating.

“Antimicrobial agents are added during the manufacturing process to add an extra layer for protection for kids,” said Product Manager Mike Joseph. “We’re expecting therapists to be very interested in this and increase product demand as a result. The pull-through effect should be a benefit for providers.”

In marketing to therapists, Joseph cautioned providers to be cognizant of Food and Drug Administration regulations regarding antimicrobial product claims.

“The FDA won’t allow us to say that antimicrobial products prevent infection,” he said. “It is protection in addition to the regular cleaning regimen.” HME
Category: Pediatrics
Key Referral Sources:

Pediatricians (primary care, pulmonologists and allergists), physical and occupational therapists, parents and family members.

Effective Marketing Techniques:

- Become a mainstay at pediatric healthcare facilities, such as children’s hospitals and clinics. Network with non-profit organizations serving disabled children.

- Take advantage of vendor marketing resources, such as inservice and workshop sponsorships, exhibits at consumer medical product expos, educational materials and mass media advertising programs.

- Showcase “patient friendly” products designed to make children more comfortable with medical equipment.