Home Care Medical: Young at heart

Thursday, March 4, 2010

NEW BERLIN, Wis. - Home Care Medical may be an HME provider, but it's not limiting itself to caring for the sick and elderly.

Over the past year, Home Care Medical has gradually expanded its orthotics and prosthetics (O&P) division, and as part of that, has added related retail items like braces and sports equipment.

"I don't think it has been looked at by HMEs for a long time, but we wanted to give the younger generation a voice in the business," said Kim Slaugenhoup, manager of retail services. "We finally realized O&P was never going to be where we wanted it to be if we ignored that generation--young and younger athletes, those under 60."

As part of expanding its O&P division, Home Care Medical has also added two fitters for a total of three.

Those fitters and other trained personnel are what bring customers to Home Care Medical for braces and other sports equipment, rather than a Sports Authority or Dick's, Slaugenhoup says.

"It took us all of last year and we'll work on it again this year, but at least we know, based on the response that we've had, that we're on the right path," she said.

To get the right braces and other sports equipment on its shelves, Home Care Medical asked referral sources like trainers and physical therapists: What do you recommend for your patients?

"Those are the products that we make sure we have in stock or that we have access to them," Slaugenhoup said.

Home Care Medical's decision to target young and younger athletes reflects its attitude, in general, for retail sales.

"Part of it has to be identifying new clientele," Slaugenhoup said. "That's not because we want to abandon the ones we have, but we know we're not reaching everyone in the community. We want to have the products they want and need."

When it comes to retail sales, braces and other sports equipment may not be as popular as, say, scooter and wheelchair lifts, but it's still a "strong category," says consultant Jack Evans.

"I find that HME providers with a retail presence will have at least 12 feet of orthopedic supports and when you include stockings, it may be 20 feet," said Evans, president of Global Media Marketing. "It's an important revenue generator."