Retail remains a key Medtrade theme

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Friday, September 22, 2017

As the home medical equipment business continues to search for a clear identity in the healthcare continuum, the retail model serves as a beacon to guide the industry forward. Long an option as a potential business segment for HME providers, retail has garnered more interest in the era of Medicare competitive bidding and, as it has been for the past several years, is a major theme at Medtrade 2017.

Several presentations will focus on retail at Medtrade, Oct. 23-25, often referred to by show organizers as “caretailing” to give it an HME specificity.

The retail concept has been adopted by HME providers in various ways—with some focusing on commodities, aids to daily living and product accessories as a sideline, while others are either re-directing their reimbursement-focused business mix toward retail or establishing retail-only outlets.

“It’s mixed,” said Maria Markusen, director of development for Waterloo, Iowa-based VGM Retail. “Often some of the most successful providers we talk to are cash-only stores without the complexity of third party rules and billing. However, we also talk to traditional HMEs who supplement their business upwards of 25% by building incrementally—adding on products to an existing customer base. Both are trying to capture a larger market share and serve the health and wellness needs of customers.”

Still, retail is only one strategy for HME providers to pursue. Rather than being the way to save the HME industry, retail is a way to grow a business, Markusen said.

“They can either transition with the changing healthcare consumer or create a cutting-edge model that captures a health and wellness consumer as they maneuver in a changing healthcare environment,” she said.

Wayne Slavitt, founder and CEO of Long Beach, Calif.-based Mobul would like to see more HME providers wean themselves off the reimbursement model, which he sees as a withering prospect.

“Providers can no longer live in the insurance world—competitive bidding is the announcement that the market we knew will not return,” he said. “The future of the industry is not about trying to survive in a declining revenue model…that is not long-term solution. The industry still needs a jolt toward moving into retail.”