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Enter Amazon? Negative impact would be felt far and wide, say poll respondents

Enter Amazon? Negative impact would be felt far and wide, say poll respondents

YARMOUTH, Maine - Unsurprisingly, a large majority of providers fear the “Amazon effect” on the DME market, according to the results of a recent HME Newspoll.

While Amazon already offers basic DME, the retail giant has reportedly applied for wholesale distribution licenses in more than a dozen states for “durable medical equipment distribution, medical gas distribution, or both,” according to multiple news reports.

“I don't like things such as oxygen being offered by companies with no clinical teams,” said David Chesnut, president of Pennyrile Home Medical.

About 82% of poll respondents, like Chestnut, say they view the possibility of Amazon growing its presence in the DME market as a negative.

It's one thing to buy canes and walkers online, but certain DME like oxygen equipment can really only be provided locally, say poll respondents.

“What happens to the patient that is on oxygen and can't live without it and the power goes out at 2 a.m.?” asked one respondent. “Medicare guidelines state that we have to be there within two hours to fix the equipment. How will Amazon do that? They won't.”

The experience of providers already trying to compete with Amazon for basic DME hasn't been good, with 59% of poll respondents reporting the retail giant has driven down prices.

“Everyone in the DME world thought prices couldn't go any lower, now enter Amazon,” said one respondent. “Prices will definitely be driven down, thereby forcing smaller DMEs out of business.”

It's especially annoying when customers bring up Amazon pricing in their showrooms, say poll respondents.

“They expect us to meet it,” said John Galvin, director of Kent Home Medical Equipment. “More and more retail products are falling victim to Amazon—it was just a matter of time.”

Adding insult to injury, it's the local provider that consumers turn to when they buy DME from Amazon only to find they need help with it, respondents say.

“So many times, we end up trying to help people that purchased from the Internet and did not receive the correct item, it was not assembled, or they there weren't sure how to even use it,” said Marcy Ratcliffe, president of Home and Hospital Medical Supplies.

Sure, Amazon may have the market cornered on all things retail, but it's unlikely the retail giant will ever embrace the entire market, say respondents.

“I don't see Amazon ever billing insurance, therefore I don't see it as a really big deal other than reducing prices on some small cash items,” said Jim Graham, president of Renaissance Medical. “It just might be a blessing for them to deliver walkers.”


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