Manufacturers meet consumers online

‘This is a way for us to interact and to better understand’
Friday, September 8, 2017

YARMOUTH, Maine – Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare and Invacare have joined the growing ranks of HME manufacturers that have launched online communities for consumers.

Inspired by Drive, a division of Drive that makes positioning and mobility products for the pediatric market, launched “Live Inspired,” an online community for families with children with special needs, in August.

“It helps us stay competitive, but it’s more about wanting to show that we’re committed to these families,” said Brittany Commodore, digital media manager for Inspired by Drive. “We wanted a place for them to share resources and make connections. We wanted to offer that value, whether they use our products or not.”

As part of the first phase of the launch, Commodore posts a new guest blog to “Live Inspired” every Tuesday. Tara Thompson, the Aussie mum of two behind @willows-cpjourney, an Instagram account documenting the journey of her youngest daughter living with cerebral palsy, was one of the website’s first guest bloggers. The topic of her blog: “The hard days.”

Commodore says families with children with special needs are already online, searching for information, for advice, for support.

“Why not help to facilitate that?” she said. “We’re just helping to bridge that gap.”

Invacare launched “Roll Revolution,” an online community for people with spinal cord injuries, nearly a year ago, and “Do More With Oxygen,” an online community for users of home oxygen therapy in 2012. While the former is still ramping up, the latter boasts 25,000 users.

Both communities focus their content on lifestyle advice. For “Do More,” it’s tips for staying healthy and for talking to doctors. For “Roll Revolution,” it’s “How to be the best advocate for accessibility” and “Signs and symptoms of depression after an SCI.”

“Because we sell to providers, we don’t have a chance to talk directly to people using our products,” said Maegen Hurtado, digital marketing manager at Invacare. “This is a way for us to interact and to better understand what our customers need.”

While manufacturers interacting directly with consumers might give some of their provider customers pause, there’s no need, both Drive and Invacare say.

“This is a benefit for them,” Commodore said. “When providers are working with families, they can say, ‘Hey, I know you love your P Pod (alternative seating device), you should check out Live Inspired and submit your story.’”

Lisa Gonzalez, communications manager at Invacare, agreed.

“It’s another resource they can refer to their patients,” she said. “It’s somewhere to send them for additional information and comfort.”