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O&P: Challenging, but an intriguing market

O&P: Challenging, but an intriguing market

Orthotics and prosthetics are somewhat out of the mainstream when it comes to home medical equipment and specialists in the field say it has its challenges regarding reimbursement and logistics. Yet the product types within the category dovetail nicely with the major HME markets, such as mobility, rehab and respiratory because those clients often need them. 

As a category, O&P encompasses a wide range of products serving a diverse patient population. Because many HME patients have chronic diseases like diabetes, products to support vein health like compression stockings and orthotic shoes are a natural fit. Other products, like post-mastectomy prosthetics, require more clinical and specialized services.  

“Many O&P providers do not realize the impact that post-breast surgery patients can have on their business,” said Shan Willoughby, marketing manager for Kennesaw, Ga.-based Amoena USA. “It is a service that needs to be recognized and embraced and it definitely opens up a community of patients.” 

The key to serving the post-mastectomy market is creating awareness and educating patients on their product options, Willoughby said.  

“Knowledge is power and knowledge in this area can provide not only an increase in revenue, but your service offerings play a major role in helping women regain their confidence and self-esteem, leading to a fuller life lived,” she said. 

Serving the O&P market is not without its challenges, however, said Amoena president Kevin Ostwald. Competitive bidding, along with the specialized nature of orthotics and prosthetics, can be complicating factors in serving this market. Even so, he maintains that providers who can demonstrate quality patient care will have a consistent supply of referrals. 

"Vendors look for providers that are not just furnishing a product, but the services that go along with it, such as billing, fitting and training to help to optimize their business strategy and patient outcomes,” Ostwald said. 

Scope of service 

A critical question for becoming a distinguished O&P provider is whether to specialize in one area or to offer a broad array of products. There are advantages to both approaches, said Erick Janisse, corporate trainer at Mequon, Wis.-based Dr. Comfort. 

“Personally, I think providers need to be able to furnish as many different products and services as they can, but at the same time, I do believe there is a lot of value in becoming the ‘go-to’ facility for a given specialty,” Janisse said. “That is a great way to market yourself to referral sources.  Another way to set yourself apart is to partner with other healthcare providers to provide public education and help to raise community awareness of things like diabetes.” 

Ostwald believes relationships drive the business, and that more is better when it comes to products and services. 

“If you look at the best providers, they are the ones working with their local referral sources as well their community to provide optimal care across a broad range of services,” he said. “Some of the best facilities are consolidated service providers offering many services from one location. Another advantage is to carry products focused on patient-specific needs that have clinical results – these can be custom or off-the-shelf, but showing results is key.” 

Innovation & cross selling 

At the vanguard of technology in the O&P product spectrum is the evolution of 3-D printing to create custom orthotics and prosthetics. 

“From what I see at shows and talking with practitioners, the fastest growing segment is anything with cutting edge materials, like carbon composites and new technologies – especially 3-D printing of orthoses,” Janisse said. 

While Ostwald professes to like 3-D printed products, he also adds “I don’t think they have demonstrated quick enough turnaround time to get it commercialized.” However, he believes “this technology will push custom orthotics forward in knees, backs and AFOs [ankle-foot orthoses] over the next several years. The personalization of orthotics is upon us. Just make sure you follow all HIPAA guidelines.” 

The diverse needs of HME clients present various retail and cross-selling opportunities, none more than orthotic footwear for patients with diabetes, Janisse said. 

“While Medicare does cover shoes and inserts for eligible beneficiaries with diabetes, shoes can also be a great retail category to help improve cash flow and the bottom line for patients without coverage as well as their friends and family,” he said. 

Post-mastectomy patients need a variety of products, such as compression and comfort bras with drain management and scar therapy products for recovery care. A breast prosthesis needs bra support, so offering several bra options is important, Willoughby said. 

“Recovery care, breast forms and shapers, breast care apparel – these are pillars of a well-thought-out product offering to support patients every step of the way and to keep them coming back,” she said.



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