Distributors see home care as winning market

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Monday, February 3, 2020

Medical supply distributors and manufacturers are turning their attention to the rapidly growing field of home health care. They are also realizing something that may come as no surprise to you—it’s a really complicated field that’s undergoing a lot of change.

A group of more than 40 experts gathered in November at a Home Care Thought Leaders event in Arlington, Va., hosted by the Health Industry Distributors Association. They met to better understand the market and to strategize about how to deliver the best products for the best care in the home. I had the pleasure of moderating the event and one thing became very clear to everyone in attendance: Shipping a box to a front porch is a totally different ballgame than shipping pallets to a hospital or nursing home.

It’s about really knowing your customer—literally. Is it the patient, caregiver, payer, HME provider, or a combination of that group? It’s also about understanding that the ultimate user is the patient in their home—and they may be experiencing home care as part of an unexpected situation.

Considering the rapidly growing market with its reimbursement and policy pressures, the group of thought leaders brainstormed about how to address three key issues in getting those products to the home: product design, logistics, and sales and marketing. Here are some of their key takeaways:

Product design: Keep it simple

1.   Make it easy to use.

2.   Make it easy to unbox.

3.   Offer on-demand consumer education with instructions that aren’t clinically complex.

4.   Keep it reimbursement-friendly.

5.   Include instructions on who to call for troubleshooting.

Logistics: Make it seamless

1.   Consider the product weight. Does it require more than one person for carrying or set up?

2.   Prepare for urban versus rural delivery challenges.

3.   Offer “smart tracking” for certain items like temperature-controlled products.

4.   Educate drivers to perform a home “scan” rather than just dropping off products on the porch.

5.   Understand whether it’s important to have a required signature.

Sales and marketing: Understand your customer

1.   Connect with patients digitally.

2.   Educate yourself about likes/dislikes of the Silent Generation, baby boomers, and Gen X’ers.

3.   Understand that the Internet is the primary source of information

4.   Make reviews easily available and accessible.

5.   Offer marketing materials with a homecare focus, such as results data from homecare trials.

Colton Mason is senior vice president of Supreme Medical, a full-line medical supply distributor servicing home care providers. Mason is also the host of HME TV, an online series focused on the business success of the home medical equipment provider, which can be found on both YouTube and LinkedIn under the hashtag #HMETV. Visit suprememedical.com or view his vlog at hmetv.com.