The chronicles of southern California, part 2


Diversification was the underlying theme of our visits today with MK Battery and Cramer Decker Medical. Take a hint from these two companies, HME providers: Now’s not the time to sit still.

MK Battery recently opened distribution facilities in Holland and Germany as part of its continued expansion into Europe. David Brunelle, who works in the company’s sales department, says the manufacturer wants its power wheelchair manufacturer partners, like Invacare, to know that it can support its chairs overseas.

But why would HME providers here in the United States care about MK Battery’s expansion into Europe? Well, it shows that the manufacturer is making moves and staying relevant. If I’m an HME provider, I want to work with a manufacturer that thinks that way.

Speaking of making moves and staying relevant, MK Battery had a good year in 2011, despite decreases in the number of claims for power wheelchairs in competitive bidding areas. In fact, Brunelle says sales to the HME industry are up, largely due to the closures of some battery manufacturing plants in China (MK Battery’s plant is in Pennsylvania). The company’s making up for decreases in utilization with increases in market share.

Jo-Ellen and I also had a fun conversation with Brunelle and Lilia Florez about MK Battery’s latest ad campaign, which features an older man living a pretty wild lifestyle thanks to his power wheelchair. Think racing your wheelchair on a dirt track and using it on safari. They’re some of the more fun (and probably more effective) ads in HME News.

Over at Cramer Decker Medical, diversification is taking the shape of bags of all types for the emergency response market. The company is making bags for the EMT, fire and tactical response industries, and it’s looking to enter the sports and PT industry. Cramer Decker already makes bags for oxygen cylinders.

I can’t tell you exactly what Cramer Decker is up to in the homecare market, because it’s kind of a secret at the moment, but I can say that, instead of focusing on low-cost products (you can only go so low), it’s focusing on designing and manufacturing higher-end products for consumers who want alternatives. These products are going to make great retail items for HME providers.

I can also say that Cramer Decker has re-launched its “Renew” program for ME and M6 oxygen cylinders. As part of the program, HME providers return their used cylinders to Cramer Decker, then Cramer Decker installs the existing valves on new cylinders and ships them to providers.

Jo-Ellen and I also visited the good folks at Fisher & Paykel, who are up to a lot, but again, it’s kind of a secret at the moment. Stay tuned.

The mandatory weather report for those of you back in Maine: It was in the 60s with rain, which I'm sure will make you happy. The funny thing is that I heard LA meteorologist Dallas Raines call this "winter weather."

Liz Beaulieu