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Home accessibility demand stays high

Home accessibility demand stays high

COVID-19 kept everyone home during the pandemic’s ascension, triggering a strong interest in home modifications and jumpstarting demand for home accessibility products and services. A year later, that demand hasn’t waned, specialists in the field say; if anything, they say, it continues to escalate. 

“Demand for home accessibility is not slowing down but growing,” said Jim Greatorex, vice president of Waterloo, Iowa-based VGM Live at Home. “Things were a little slow at the beginning of the year for senior consumers, but after people got their vaccinations, there was a lot of pent-up demand for services.” 

The aging-in-place concept gained a lot of recognition through the pandemic, leading more Americans to seek out home accessibility products and services, Greatorex said. Heightened awareness also caused state programs and the Department of Veterans Affairs to address backlogs and service home accessibility needs, though Greatorex adds that workman’s compensation programs are down due to a shrunken workforce. 

Pent-up demand, fueled by the desire to age in place, could make home accessibility an attractive market for HME providers looking for new revenue streams. But the big question to consider before gearing up to serve these clients is whether to launch a comprehensive program that encompasses all aspects of accessibility or to focus on any number of related specialties. The consensus among vendors participating in this article is that HME providers should assume a full-service role if possible, but that it may not be necessary in all cases. 

“A ‘one-stop shop’ is always beneficial for consumers with limited mobility, making it easier to solve all of their needs at once,” said Renae Storie, vice president of Exeter, Pa.-based Pride Mobility. “However, we have many provider partners specializing in specific areas, especially when it comes to more custom needs. Both business models are important and will continue to be successful as each consumer is unique to their needs.” 

David Baxter, vice president of product strategy for Sarasota, Fla.-based Harmar, contends that “HME providers could do either – picking a strategy and sticking to it is generally better than trying to be everything to everyone.” 

Greatorex recommends adopting a full-service model for providers that want “a self-supporting, profit-making home access offering” because “most consumers need more than one solution to keep their independence and handling all their needs makes for a huge competitive advantage.”  

Even if an HME company doesn’t handle all the aspects of home accessibility, an entire project can still fall under its purview, said Troy Holland, president of Logan, Utah-based Stander. 

“Often times providers can offer a ‘free home safety assessment’ to customers” in order to present several options, he said. “They can offer products that can either be installed by them or their caregiver, offer free installation with the purchase of the products, or even add an installation fee as an optional service and send a service tech out to do the installation.” 

Contracting with construction partners is another option, but Holland says, “often times their solutions are going to be complete remodels and it can cut homecare providers out of the picture completely.” 

The electronic factor 

Basic equipment like ramps, stairlifts, elevators, grab bars, bed rails and bath benches continue to be the cornerstone of home accessibility, but more recently, electronic surveillance and communications devices are being added to the mix. HME providers should consider furnishing these products to a home modification project if warranted, Holland and Baxter say.  

“Electronic devices have a place in home accessibility, but that is only part of the puzzle,” Holland said. “Safety equipment like grab bars, bed rails and ramps are still going to be needed in order to keep someone from falling, and that will never change.” 

Baxter added: “The world is evolving and the ability for technology to be integrated into a solution is definitely a trend. Adult children want to have confidence that their independent parents are OK and providers want to be able to know if the products are working properly before they require repair or maintenance. IoT (Internet of Things) and security systems should be part of an overall aging in place strategy.” 

Yet even though electronic surveillance and communications devices are gaining favor, Greatorex believes they shouldn’t be part of an HME provider’s home accessibility services. 

“We have found that the remote monitoring products do not match up well with the common home accessibility business model,” he said. “The delivery model for that service requires nimble, quick deliveries. It is hard for a home access company whose average job ranges from $9,000 to $12,000 to drop everything for that type of transaction. Most would prefer to have a co-referral model by building a relationship with a company that treats the service as a high priority.”


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