Despite payment woes, show must go on

Saturday, March 31, 2007

LAS VEGAS - No matter the reimbursement crunch, HME vendors still value the Medtrade Spring show as an opportunity to strut their stuff before the ogling eyes of HME providers.
Innovation is still the buzz word, still the motivator, and still what manufacturers want to talk about.
"We'll be featuring our newest innovations at the spring show," says Maryellen Bizzack, Respironics manager of marketing and communications.
The show "allows us to reach out to our providers and give them a hands-on view of our many new and innovative products," says Ted Raquet, vice president of domestic sales at Pride Mobility Products.
No one's reining in innovation as a response to reimbursement cuts--at least no one's admitting as much.
Likewise, the benchmarks for a great show today are what they were a decade ago: maximize face-time with buyers; create buzz with products that may transcend the show; transmit messages about products, programs and services that endure long after the lights have faded.
Still, there's no consensus among manufacturers about the show's evolution. Some think reimbursement pressures are shrinking the audience.
"Due to the continuing pressures on reimbursement, we recognize that Medtrade Spring could draw fewer attendees and will probably become more of a regional show than it may have been in the past," says Wayne Merdinger, director of marketing at MK Battery.
At Pride, the year-over-year rise in attendance says something else.
"It is evolving from a regional show to more of a national show," says Annmarie Poslock general manager of public relations and marketing services.
Beyond products, vendors continue to value the spring show as an incubator, both for industry issues at large and for priceless give-and-take between buyers and sellers.
"It provides a great way for Medline, especially people from our corporate office, to meet with valued current customers and providers who may not be very familiar with Medline yet," said Dave Jacobs, president of Medline's durable medical equipment division. "It would take me months of travel to be able to replicate the customer immersion we enjoy at Medtrade."
"It is only through the Medtrade shows that the industry can literally come together to share ideas, develop strategies and present a united front from which to respond to the constantly changing reimbursement landscape," said Merdinger.
Despite all the perceived value, there's yet another reason why vendors continue to pony up every spring.
"I think you must attend because one would be conspicuous by their absence," said John Durkee, vice president of sales at medSage Technologies.