Industry stages extreme makeover

Friday, July 31, 2009

ATLANTA--A powerful group of industry leaders has convinced Medtrade to up its game and its value to HME manufacturers, providers and consumers.

“The last couple of years people were quite dissatisfied, but I think now we have it on the right track,” said Bill Elliott, president and CEO of The MED Group

Those on board with the makeover include Invacare, MED, Pride Mobility, Drive Medical, NCART, The VGM Group and many others. They impressed upon the industry’s largest trade show the need to improve its provider education; broaden attendance by reaching out to clinicians and consumers; focus on new products designed to improve patient outcomes; and help strengthen industry advocacy efforts. Forget about being a buying show, they said; Medtrade, for the most part, hasn’t been that for years.

To many, the makeover is welcome news. Recent shows have seemed to lack energy and focus. If Medtrade intends to help providers and exhibitors succeed in a rapidly changing healthcare environment, that must change, say industry leaders.

Medtrade’s willingness to address industry needs head-on convinced Invacare to return to the show after passing on last year’s event, said Carl Will, group vice president for HME.

“It wasn’t anything against Medtrade,” Will said. “We just weren’t getting the bang for our buck. This way it is a good investment.”

Medtrade’s new agreement with AAHomecare could also pay big dividends. The deal provides the industry’s flagship trade association with increased financial incentives in exchange for helping out with the show’s education, advocacy and exhibitor enrollment. The more money Medtrade earns, the more AAHomecare receives for its lobbying and advocacy work on behalf of the industry.

“We pulled out of Medtrade when we realized it wasn’t working anymore, but we are anxious to help AAHomecare, and that is the reason we are talking and reconsidering going back to the show,” said Harvey Diamond, Drive Medical’s president. “At the same time, we’re trying to come up with an exciting program that will be good for the whole industry.”

Kirsten Delay, a senior vice president at Pride Mobility, agreed.

“The more participation we have at Medtrade, the more we are supporting AAHomecare,” she said.

When it comes to education, Delay added, it “needs to be about earning CEUs and things that help providers become accredited - not just having experts in the industry give seminars.”

And, said Ron Bendell, president of The VGM Group, it’s about time the HME industry reached out to clinicians and consumers.

“Let’s show them what we are all about,” he said. “I think our industry would be better positioned today in Washington if we had more involvement from consumers.”

Show Director Kevin Gaffney called industry efforts to help improve the show “exciting.”

“Medtrade is a reflection of the industry,” he said.  “As such, we want to listen to what the industry is looking for and develop programs that will help. We want to address concerns and provide an opportunity that makes sense.”