2011 Big Ten

Home Accessibility

Providers are giving home access a second look as they seek out new revenue opportunities.

Home access is not necessarily an industry segment that we would have believed would ever make our Big Ten list. Long the domain of specialty providers, it has been a key patient service, but not one with necessarily universal interest among all providers. That is until now. The massive cuts to Medicare funding have reduced provider revenues and cash flow so severely that they must search out new business opportunities. Providing accessibility services could represent an excellent opportunity given that it is largely cash transactions and because there is an expanding market for them.

To begin with, there are a couple key patient groups that are expanding and that will need accessibility products. Those are bariatric patients and the Baby Boom generation. Bariatric patients have a variety of accessibility needs, especially in the area of bath safety, and they represent a growing portion of the U.S. population. According to the Centers for Disease control there are now 72 million Americans that are obese. In terms of the number of patients that are morbidly obese, another study puts that figure at 9 million.

The Baby Boom generation, counts for as many as 76 million people to its ranks and has already started entering the age in which they will need DME. Moreover, they are also caring for aging parents. Those two needs, combined with the relative wealth of baby boomers, means they are willing and able to pay for more expensive homecare solutions, such as accessibility. If there’s any doubt regarding their desire for home access, one need only look to a recent AARP study that showed that 89 percent of homeowners over the age of 45 prefer to remain in their homes, yet 80 percent of that population will require special housing and care needs.

Add to the bariatric and Baby Boom populations the number of mobility patients needing accessibility solutions and services, and providers have some excellent market opportunities to investigate and possibly leverage in the coming year.

Moreover, given that patient groups like bariatric patients or aging Baby Boomers have a wide footprint in the spectrum of HME and homecare services, there is a good chance that a provider might already be tapped into these patient groups in the first place. As the old saying goes, it’s ten times harder to build a new customer relationships than to grow and existing one. So, for providers already serving these groups, they have an easy entry point for growing revenues from pre-established client relationships.

Already the industry has been giving the accessibility market increasing attention in recent months. Some recent developments:

  • Access ramp maker Amramp and home health provider Homewatch CareGivers joined to create HomeNest, a system of accessibility equipment and caregiving services that features a range of wheelchair ramps, lifts, commodes and showers to help clients maneuver about their own homes.
  • The Accessible Home Improvement of America division of VGM Group Inc. formed a partnership with All American Homes LLC, a subsidiary of All American Group Inc., to provide new homes designed with accessible needs in mind.
  • Both the 2010 VGM Heartland event and Medtrade Fall 2010 included accessible home displays that featured full-scale homes built at the events. The homes featured a variety of access upgrades and equipment, such as patient transfers, bath safety equipment, accessible kitchens, access ramps and even closets that eased reaching and hanging clothes.

Moreover, entering home access does not require a provider to be a fullscale home access company. Providers can ease into the home access market by providing bath safety items and then expanding into other territory such as access ramps, stair-lifts or other patient lifts. And when it comes to remodeling, savvy providers will seek out the right partners, such as those contractors that are credentialed by the National Association of Homebuilders as a Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (CAPS).

And speaking of certification, the Accessible Home Improvement of America was set up by VGM to provide a network of properly trained home access providers for patients needing their services. As a result AHIA has created the Certified Environmental Access Consultants (CEAC) designation for providers in its network and provides online training to providers interested in obtaining the certification. This way they will not only be put into a network of patients and referral partners, but possess a certification that sets them apart from competitors that might not possess it. That can be a true market differentiator for providers trying to gain marketshare in a cash business to say the least.

With the Medicare environment the way it is, providers need to explore every possibility to increase their revenues. This definitely puts accessibility on the Big 10 for 2011. Smart providers should begin crafting plans for tapping into this market this year.

Points to Remember

  • Home access had limited appeal with providers until sweeping Medicare funding cuts forced them to investigate new markets.
  • Home access represents retail revenue that can boost cash flow.
  • There are some growing patient populations that need home access services, such as Baby Boomers and their parents, and bariatric patients, that have expanded the market potential.
  • Providers interested in the expanding into home access have easy entry points, such as bath access.
  • They can also partner with specialized remodeling contractors.
  • AHIA is now providing special certification to providers interested in learning more and joining its network.

This article originally appeared in the January 2011 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/dkopf/ and on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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