Readers debate Internet retailing
Editor's note: Our July HME NewsPoll hit a real hot spot. The question--"Are HME manufacturers doing enough to make sure Internet retailers of HME provide sufficient service and follow-up after the initial sale?"--generated 402 responses. That's about twice as many as usual. What's more, 212 of those respondents offered written comments. A selection of those comments follow:
"In most cases, I would argue that a free market system would work. Unfortunately, as we see with many prescription drugs, knock-offs have found a breeding ground on the Internet. Internet retailers need much more regulation for the safety of the consumers."
- Rob Kirincic, owner, Home Patient Services, Skokie, Ill.
"This is America. Everyone is free to choose whatever business model they wish. That being said, certain assistive technologies require a degree of service and knowledge that is simply not possible to offer over the Internet. For those technologies, Internet sales should be restricted to consumers that can demonstrate that there is no need for this service component. The Internet provider shouldn't expect a local provider to provide warranty support for products that they did not sell."
- Syd Gubin, president, Home Health Supply, Palm Springs, Calif.
"The Internet is the last 'free market.' I can only hope it will stay that way. People should be able to spend their money as they wish. If the U.S. manufacturers try to regulate these sales, it will only stimulate the sale of foreign made goods."
"Retailing of products on the Web should be treated as any cash-and-carry business: Nothing illegal=no regulation. You pays your money, you takes your chances."
"It's time for the industry to internally raise the bar. Manufacturers should only sell products to accredited suppliers."
- Doug Harrison, CEO, The Scooter Store, New Braunfels, Texas
"First off, the level of service and follow-up is only part of the picture. Who is determining what level of equipment the client requires and whether it will work in his environment? If you are talking about disposables or off-the-shelf small purchase items, not much evaluation, service or follow-up is required. If you are talking about rehab equipment, power chairs, ultra-lights and specialty seating/cushioning, it requires much more than any Internet retailer could possibly provide."
- Stan Arledge, ATS, Southern California Mobility, Stanton, Calif.
"Internet retailers offer a service for many uninsured or underinsured people. I've reviewed many Internet Web sites. Most sell products under manufacturer's suggested retail prices. Service after the sale is like any other type of service. Are you going to police the prescription drug Internet retailers to ensure they provide adequate service after the sale?"
- Brian McPeters, intake supervisor, Medicor Healthcare, Tampa, Fla.
"I believe in a free market, but unregulated medical equipment sales may produce more harm to patients. The wrong seating system on a power wheelchair may cause additional problems. The provider must have some medical knowledge and take the time to ensure proper fit."
- Tim Ritter, president, Ritter Medical, Summerfield, Fla.
"Internet sales should not be reimbursed by Medicare or any private insurance. It should be a free market consumer exercise of choice. What service do any of us expect to have when we buy over the Internet? If we find a reliable site, we'll keep using it and recommend it to others."
- Bob McCormick, HME supervisor, Norman Regional HME, Norman, Okla.
"Manufacturers owe it to themselves to take a greater interest in how their products are branded and represented on the Internet. Very few, if any, manufacturers take the time to even credential their supplier-customers in order to create an "authorized dealer" network. I don't understand why. As patients become increasingly viewed as consumers, they will want to purchase from a reputable HME. Why would manufacturers not want to assure that their products are branded, sold and supported properly? Ever try buying a real Rolex on the Internet?"
- Woody O'Neal, vice president, O2 Neal Medical, Pelham, Ala.
"It is not the manufacturer's responsibility to ensure a company services units after the sale. There is a problem with Internet sales on service issues, but that should be that company's responsibility. Many companies like ours are now refusing to service equipment not purchased through us."
- Jeff Dayton
"HME manufactures need to decide if they view their products as a commodity or as a therapeutic product. If products are viewed as a commodity, HME manufacturers will want to sell as many as possible, as they will have no interest in developing standards. If products are viewed as therapeutic, then I think HME manufacturers should have an interest in developing standards that all providers have to meet."
- Dave Gritter