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Providers draw line in sand, according to poll

Providers draw line in sand, according to poll ‘After 40 years in this field, I never thought I would see this happen,’ wrote one respondent

YARMOUTH, Maine - A large majority of respondents to a recent HME Newspoll (69%) say they won't buy products from manufacturers that are selling direct to consumers.

“If the manufacturers choose to chase this business, we should, as an industry, stand together and refuse to carry their products,” wrote one respondent. “These manufacturers may deny it, but they have decided they can grow their business without us.”

Invacare and Philips recently joined Inogen in selling portable oxygen concentrators direct to consumer for cash. Inogen also provides POCs through insurance.

A slimmer majority of respondents (56%) say it doesn't matter if manufacturers are just selling POCs direct to consumers for cash, not through insurance.

“Cash sales are the future of our industry, and I find it difficult to support these manufacturers,” wrote one respondent. “They need to do better at supporting us.”

As an example, a number of respondents say they've already stopped buying products from Medline, a distributor that has been tapped by a number of managed care companies as a preferred provider for incontinence supplies for Medicaid recipients in numerous states.

“Medline won the bid for all incontinence products to Medicaid patients in our state,” wrote one respondent. “This cut us out completely. After that, we only bought things (from them) that were a complete necessity. This is not exact, but if we used to spend $1 million, we now only spend $50,000.”

Respondents who will continue to buy products from these manufacturers cite the Holy Grail—service—as the reason consumers will continue walking through their doors, regardless of what manufacturers are doing.

“I think we have to expect this as an industry,” wrote one respondent. “Sony sells TVs off of their website, but that doesn't mean Target doesn't sell them in their store. It's about positioning the service behind the product, or at least positioning yourself as the main choice for the consumer.”

A few respondents even say manufacturers selling direct to consumer will boost their businesses.

“I believe we will benefit, indirectly, from their marketing campaigns,” wrote one respondent.

For the majority of respondents, however, the increasing number of manufacturers moving in this direction is hard to believe.

“It goes against the dealer network,” wrote one respondent. “After 40 years, in this field I never thought I would see this happen. This could spell the end of dealers.”


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