Medtrade '99: 20 Years in the Making

The year 1979 brought forth more than disco and pet rocks. It was the beginning of what would become the largest and most important conference and trade show of the health care industry - Medtrade.

While it started out as a modest, unknown trade show, it has matured into a annual event that home medical equipment (HME) providers must attend to stay on top in the ever-changing world of health care.

Sponsored by the Medtrade Management Group, part of Bill Communications, and surrounded by the revelry of New Orleans, Medtrade celebrates its 20th anniversary on Nov. 3 - 6 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

This year, approximately 30,000 health care professionals will have the opportunity to network with each other while learning about more than 250,000 products and attending more than 225 educational sessions.

A Time for Change

Attendees of Medtrade '99 will feature several changes and improvements. The biggest change for this year's show is the new fee required to attend. Pre-registration and the early-bird discount ended Sept. 3, so the fee for attending only the exhibits now is $25 and attending the educational conference is $149.

"We still believe we have the most cost effective conference in the country," said Louis Feuer, director of education, Medtrade Management Group.

Feuer said the fee was added to help the attendees get a better value for the money they were already spending. For example, last year attendees who wanted a program book had to pay for it separately. If an attendee wanted to attend a focus session to get a program book, he or she had to pay a fee for the session plus a fee for the book, which often ended up costing more than the new fee will be. Also, speakers at the conferences were spending thousands of dollars, sometimes out of their own pockets, to have materials printed for their sessions. This year, that cost is included in the conference fee.

"We're trying to give you more value without nickel and diming you for extras," Feuer said.

The fee for the educational conferences at Medtrade '99 will include admission to the exhibits, seminars and focus sessions, as well as a three-volume set of conference proceedings. It will also enable attendees to get their first three conference tapes for $10 as compared to being charged $9 each last year. Free programs will continue to be offered in the areas of product certification training and product technology.

A Focus on Knowledge

Conferences will be held on each day of the show from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Twenty educational tracks are available including: accreditation and licensing; certification and licensing; customer service; focus group; HME business operations; legal; long-term care; managed care; management information; manufacturers; product technology; professional development; quality management; rehabilitation; rehabilitation/clinical; reimbursement; respiratory; retail; sales and marketing; and wound care.

To use time at the conferences more efficiently, Feuer recommends that attendees look over the program list ahead of time and decide which program or track would best serve their needs.

Each year, Medtrade offers educational programs on the topics that most concern HME providers and the health care industry. This year, Medtrade is not holding a separate wound care conference.

"Rather than having to charge people to go to X-amount of sessions, we thought it was more cost effective to include things like that within the conference," Feuer said. Instead, most of the wound care seminars will be within the Medtrade conference. There are still many programs on wound care that attendees can visit, he said.

Several subjects remain in high demand including any topic related to business and operations. The issues related to fraud and abuse, reimbursement, and sales and marketing are the three biggest year after year, Feuer said.

Retail is one of the most rapidly growing issues affecting HME providers today. As reimbursement issues change, more and more providers are finding it more profitable to develop the retail aspect of their stores. Feuer said that because of this growing interest there will be many programs focusing on retail issues this year including the focus session "Strategies for Becoming an Outstanding Home Medical Equipment Retailer," presented by Jack Evans. Other focus sessions will include information on case management and automation and technology.

To help with the business and operational needs of home care executives, Medtrade is conducting the Home Health Care Executive Forum, a one-day pre-conference seminar focusing on subjects relating to finance, personnel, managed health care, and operational and legal issues. According to Feuer, the forum is designed specifically for the decision-makers within a health care organization. The forum will be held on Nov. 2 from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and it requires a separate registration fee that includes the price of the full-day conference, a program book, continental breakfast and a luncheon.

The National Association for Medical Equipment (NAMES) also is sponsoring a one-day Fall Forum on Nov. 2 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The forum will have special emphasis on rehab technology and HME business operations. NAMES requires a separate registration fee for their conference. For registration information contact NAMES at (703) 836-6263.

A Look at What's New

Medtrade has always placed strong emphasis on product awareness. Medtrade '99 will include almost 1,200 exhibitors representing approximately 250,000 products, many of which are brand new. The show provides one central place for manufacturers and providers to meet and discuss new products.

An exhibit hall as large as Medtrade may overwhelm many HME providers. A good way attendees can avoid feeling intimidated is by formulating a plan of attack for conquering the show floor.

Joe Randall, group director, health care group, Bill Communications, recommends attendees make a personalized itinerary by visiting Medtrade's web site, , before they leave for the show. Located under the directory of exhibitors, the itinerary planner enables Medtrade attendees to make notes on topics they wish to discuss with exhibitors and print them out to have as a reference when they arrive at the show.

He also recommends that attendees look through the show directory when they arrive at Medtrade and decide which exhibitors they want to see.

Attendees can see the newest products available by visiting one of four New Product Showcases on the show floor. The showcases will be broken into four product categories: Showcase A - respiratory, IV therapy, long-term care, hospital supplies/medical surgical supplies; Showcase B - sports medicine, rehab, pediatric rehab, aids to daily living; Showcase C - home medical equipment; Showcase D - wound care, ostomy, incontinence, test kits/diagnostics, women's health.

According to Randall, the separation of the new product showcase is part of a new floor plan to help with the flow of traffic at the show. In the past, the new product showcase was usually located at the back of the hall. Randall said he feels that breaking up the showcase into different areas would draw more people to stop by and see them. The new plan also enables smaller manufacturers to be "up front and center," Randall said. "Most of the attendees who come to Medtrade come to see new products, so we felt that would be helpful both for the attendee and also for the manufactuerers who is trying to get those new products out."

Manufacturers also offer show specials to help save providers money. Popular specials include discounts, free shipping or delivery, or buy a certain number of products and get one free. Randall said that Medtrade has encouraged manufacturers and exhibitors to offer show specials.

"They've always done that in the past, but we've put a real push on it this year," Randall said.

Most providers take advantage of these specials and purchase the majority of their products for the year at Medtrade.

"There's no question. We still believe, and based on the surveys we receive, that a majority of a dealer's purchases are made right there on the show floor at Medtrade," he said.

A Moment of Celebration

The 20th anniversary of Medtrade begins with the traditional ribbon cutting to open the show floor. Birthday cake will be served as a way to begin the celebration. The festivities will continue on Nov. 3 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Medtrade 1999 Mardi Gras Party. Located in the La Louisiane Ballroom at the New Orleans Convention Center, the official kickoff party will double as a birthday party, and plans are in the works for a photo gallery of past shows. All attendees are invited to come to the party and enjoy meeting new people.

For more information contact Medtrade at (877) 835-7273 or on the web at .

This article originally appeared in the October 1999 issue of HME Business.


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