One-stop shop essential for bariatric sales

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

HME manufacturers are throwing a lot of weight behind bariatric versions of products as consumer demand continues to grow. Various types of mobility equipment, support surfaces, aids to daily living and bath safety products have ultra-strong bariatric versions designed for the heaviest of users.

It is a trend that shows no sign of stopping, says Lawrence de la Haba, senior vice president of business development for Atlanta-based Graham-Field Health Products.

“The market for bariatric products continues to grow and we do not see any signs that it is leveling off,” he said. “As a matter of fact, we continue to add bariatric products to each of our primary product categories.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 36% of Americans are classified as obese and that number is expected to rise to 42% by 2030. The World Health Organization lists more than 500 million obese people globally.

“These numbers, while leveling off to some degree, still represent a tremendous challenge to the healthcare system,” de la Haba said. “The cost of care for bariatric patients is significantly higher due to the greater number of ailments that bariatric patients suffer from.”

Old Forge, Pa.-based Golden Technologies is seeing its bariatric orders increase year over year. That would ordinarily be good news if it weren’t for the unfortunate reason, said Patricia O’Brien, director of marketing.

“It’s unfortunate because someone being that overweight compounds their health issues and may be the cause of their health problems,” she said. “I think in some ways every manufacturer would prefer not to have bariatric products because that means our overall population would be healthier.”

Advancing bariatrics

Exeter, Pa.-based Pride Mobility and Quantum Rehab recognize the unique needs of this rising market segment and create products to accommodate those needs, says Cy Corgan, director of corporate sales.

“From a mobility standpoint, there need to be more high-quality solutions that fit the limited funding available for this cross-section of the population,” he said. “As this segment of the population increases, more and more people are turning to mobility products to help them with their activities of daily living. The equipment they are using ranges from lift chairs with enhanced weight capacities to complex rehab solutions tailored to meet their specific requirements. As a result, Pride and Quantum are looking to develop durable, adjustable equipment to service this market, and in 2013 there will be numerous advancements.”

Moreover, as the number of bariatric patients continues to rise, the manufacturing sector will see an increase in the demand for all types of bariatric-specific equipment, says Julie Pello, director of sales for Quantum Rehab.

“This provides excellent cross-selling opportunities,” she said. “Providers should stock a number of products with enhanced weight capacities and offer complete mobility solutions.”

Bariatric specialization

Because of the growth potential for the bariatric category, more HME providers are interested in become product specialists. By gaining a reputation as the definitive source for bariatrics, independent providers can compete successfully against the big box discount chains, manufacturers say.

Linda Lavi, vice president of marketing for Grand Prairie, Texas-based Alex Orthopedic, says determining the scope of product selection is the biggest factor.

“By having a wide selection, customers don’t have to go anywhere else to find what they need,” she said. “However, it does require an ability to handle a slower turn of inventory.”

Bariatrics is a complex field that requires a deep understanding of the customer’s needs and the ability to explain how this special equipment solves those problems, notes Dave Henderson, national sales manager for Algona, Wash.-based EZ-Access.

“It is often necessary to consult with clients on what will work best for their needs, as there are a variety of solutions available,” he said. “Knowing how to relate this to a customer in what is a sensitive topic is important. Even seasoned sales staff may need help in opening the topic for discussion.”

Becoming a one-stop shop for bariatrics is essential due to the many different products these patients need, added Courtney Rowan, associate business manager for Elyria, Ohio-based Invacare.

“They need a range of bariatric home medical equipment and they want to get it from one place,” she said. “It’s also attractive to the bariatric referral sources because that provider can furnish the full line of products.”

Bensenville, Ill.-based Sizewise is committed to helping providers become bariatric specialists and providing guidance to staff, caregivers and patients, said John Dopita, director of the Sizewise Homecare Division.

“At the end of the day, patient safety, healing and comfort is the trifecta we should all be working to achieve for this unique patient population,” he said.