Hoveround looks beyond power wheelchairs

Monday, November 1, 2010

SARASOTA, Fla. - With Medicare reimbursement and documentation requirements continuing to bear down on the power wheelchair benefit, one of the largest providers in the market has decided to diversify its product mix with cash items.

Hoveround, which manufactures its products and then distributes them directly to consumers, unveiled the Hoverlift suite of mobility products in October. The suite contains a vehicle lift, stair lift and bath lift.

"The bar is rising to access the benefit," said Tom Kruse, founder and CEO of Hoveround. "We consider ourselves specialists on mobility, and we started looking at other issues that people are having in their homes and expanding our portfolio of products to further meet their needs."

Hoveround has provided vehicle lifts before, but only through other vendors. It's the company's first stab at offering stair lifts and bath lifts.

The lifts put Hoveround in a position to offer customers—those who qualify for power wheelchairs and those who don't—additional products to increase their independence. Kruse estimates only 8% of the customers who call the company for power wheelchairs meet Medicare's requirements.

"People are desperately reaching out for anything that can aid and assist them in their homes—they're often more afraid of winding up in a nursing home than dying," he said. "We understand that a caregiver or nursing aid can be (the best option) in some cases, but there are very simple products that can assure their safety."

The lifts may not be the end of Hoveround's story of diversification, either, Kruse said.

"I think you're going to see other products coming out in the future that are along the same lines: independent products for the home," he said.

But don't expect Hoveround to market the lifts quite like it does its power wheelchairs, Kruse said.

"We don't see it, yet, as something we're specifically marketing, except within our database and within the group of people who are calling us for various reasons," he said.

The Scooter Store, another large provider of standard power wheelchairs, announced earlier this year that it had created a home medical equipment division to complement its power mobility business (See HME News, October 2010).