Power chair repairs: Invacare offers options

Thursday, January 31, 2008

ELYRIA, Ohio - Want to continue selling power wheelchairs but jettison your low- or no-paying repair business? If that's the case, Invacare might have a deal for you.
On Nov. 29, the manufacturer announced that it had acquired Roadrunner Mobility, which bills itself as the "largest independent power wheelchair repair organization in the nation."
"Repairs for some providers is a money maker and a core competency," said Chris Yessayan, vice president and general manager of Invacare's Services Business Group. "But if service is something you don't want to do, this provides an alternative. You can sell power chairs and not have to contend with maintaining a product."
Acquiring Roadrunner fits into Invacare's strategy--one that other industry manufacturers have also adopted--of evolving from a "very product-centric to a products-and-services business" that offers solutions to a provider's business challenges, Yessayan said.
The arrangement between Invacare and Roadrunner is not new, but the acquisition does take it to a new level. For about 18 months, Invacare has contracted with Roadrunner to run its Five Star Service Program, which allows providers to outsource their power wheelchair repairs. Invacare has no immediate plans to change how the program operates, but with its corporate resources, the manufacturer should be able to grow Roadrunner faster, automate it and make it more efficient, Yessayan said.
Providers who use Roadrunner's repair services pay a flat fee of $150 per power wheelchair and $100 per scooter. That's for Invacare products under warranty. Roadrunner can also repair competing products that are under warranty but at a price that must be negotiated.
Currently, about 100 providers use the Five Star program with five to 10 new providers signing up a month, Yessayan said.
"I think if we had launched it three to five years ago, it probably wouldn't have gone anyplace," he said, noting the recent cuts in Medicare reimbursement for power mobility devices and increased documentation requirements. "I think in today's environment, where people are looking at 'How do I focus on my business and make sure I'm going to be profitable,' they are more likely to look at Five Star as a more viable alternative for them."