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Active medical supplies market full of evolution

Active medical supplies market full of evolution

For sheer volume, the medical supplies category tops the HME industry in terms of breadth and depth of product options. It encompasses several categories, including urology, ostomy, wound care, enteral nutrition, incontinence, breast pumps, CPAP and diabetes management supplies, including continuous glucose monitors. 

While this may seem unwieldy, it represents a smorgasbord of business options and opportunities for HME providers, manufacturers in the field say. 

“The medical supply market continues to evolve as new products are developed, demand shifts demographically and new categories emerge,” said Skip Matthews, chairman of AAHomecare’s Medical Supplies Council chair. “A recognition that compliant medical supply usage helps reduce overall health care spend has meant a greater emphasis on this category.” 

Perfect storm 

Russ Hicks, vice president and general manager for Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health at-Home Solutions, characterizes the market as “a few evolutions happening simultaneously, particularly in the home health care space.” Key drivers include an aging population driving growth across all product categories and consumer expectations fueling demand for fast, efficient product shipping, he said. 

“This consumer-driven demand has shaped our supply chain strategy – Cardinal Health at-Home Solutions has 10 strategically located distribution centers across the country that allow us to reach 99% of the U.S. population in one to two business days,” he said. 

As a result of these drivers, Paul Miller, director of business development, Post Acute Care, for Mundelein, Ill.-based Medline Industries, sees an increased emphasis on disposable items, such as catheters, urological supplies, wound care items, and orthopedic soft goods, than in the past.  

“This shift is noteworthy, as historically, the perception of the medical supply market is often centered around durable items like bent metal and wheelchairs,” Miller said. “There is a growing importance of clinical-based supplies and disposable products that require recurring deliveries to homes to effectively manage care safely. As the medical supplies market continues to expand, the increasing acuity level significantly influences the range of products available in the industry.” 

Diabetes direction 

At Parsippany, N.J.-based Ascensia, the focus is on diabetes care, “so when we think of medical supplies we think about meters, lancets, test strips, pens and syringes,” said Torstein Myhre, vice president of Ascensia’s Global BGM Commercial. “The diabetes market is evolving dramatically as a wave of groundbreaking technologies become more and more established. CGMs and insulin pumps have become a mainstay in developed markets and their adoption has driven consumer demand for more data, more choice and, ultimately, more control.” 

Moreover, continued diabetes product innovation is offering new solutions to markets that haven’t seen a lot of change over the years, Hicks said. 

“These new products – like CGMs – are not only backed by consumer demand, but government-owned and commercial insurance plans are following suit with coverage commitments,” he said. “Cardinal Health at-Home Solutions has worked closely with AAHomecare to continue to discuss the criticality in covering these new innovations with state and federal lawmakers to see access improve. Overall, this groundswell of support to get patients access to the latest innovations in the market has been extremely positive across the board.” 

Specialize or diversify? 

The medical supplies spectrum is deep and wide, which makes deciding how much to take on a challenge for providers. Matt Edwards, CEO of Hudson, Ohio-based GEMCO Medical, asserts that specializing offers specific advantages. 

“Specializing allows providers to become experts in specific product categories, enabling them to deliver superior service, education and support to patients and health care professionals,” he said. “They can devote resources and attention to mastering the intricacies of those products, which can lead to higher patient satisfaction and better outcomes.” 

In reviewing market opportunities, Hicks maintains “it’s important to understand your organization’s areas of strength and where you provide the most value to your customers. Suppliers should remain focused on their core and what differentiates them from the rest of the industry.” 

Miller says there is also merit in providers becoming full-service operations to best serve their customers. 

“Historically, providers might have exclusively concentrated on specific areas such as CPAP machines or oxygen, but common practices reflect a shift towards embracing a broader range of offerings,” he said. “From a consumer perspective, there is an increasing preference for accessing all health care needs from a single source. Unlike the trend where providers commonly selected a specific product category to focus on, today's providers are diversifying their portfolios with a noticeable trend towards cross-selling opportunities.”


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