Provider Strategy:

Home Accessibility: The Opportunity

Home access is a top priority for patients.

As we are all aware today, there are many concerns facing the entire home health industry. Issues such as national competitive bidding; drastic reimbursement reductions; and a continued increase in new mandates and regulations are putting a tremendous cost burden on providers. In comparison to these rising issues, our Nations’ population base is getting older every day. The demographics are there, proving that we are living longer, but not necessarily healthier! Currently there are roughly 44 Million people living in the U.S. that are between the ages of 50 and 65 (U.S. Census). By 2015, those aged 50 and older will represent 45 percent of the U.S. Population (AARP). The Baby Boomer generation, our fastest growing age bracket, will be a tremendous source for diversity in your revenue stream. Not only will they enhance your client base for your current business offerings, but will bring a great opportunity for retail sales. Diversification inyour product and service offerings is a must for success and prosperity.

The accessibility market for safe and independent living has proven time after time in recent studies and surveys to be the highest priority on the minds of those wishing to age-in-place. The need for quality products, educated professionals and a high level of customer service is there; opening the door to diversity in sales, revenue and a jump start on market share and the market begins with your existing client base. As this market is largely a cash market, every existing client has the possibility for an “up-sell” and that’s the key. With increasing disposable income, higher expectations for quality of life than other generations, longer life expectancy, improved technology and services, the elderly and the physically challenged will be determined to seek options for independent living solutions in their own homes.

There are several synergies that exist between traditional HME offerings and Accessibility: the same/similar clientele; existing referral sources; cross selling or up selling opportunities are real; some vendors have offerings for both lines of product; marketing materials work very well when combined.

All helping to make the move into accessibility easier, it’s a good fit that allows your existing associates to grab a hold of and a natural progression for your offerings to the communities you serve. With a staff of certified professionals, your clients will feel a sense of security and trust that your company is the best option to tend to all their home healthcare needs. This feeling of trust comes from knowledgeable staff understanding your clients’ needs and offering real solutions to help them live a safer, more satisfying lifestyle.

Accessibility offerings cover wide range of products that can be categorized by the level of skill needed to install. These levels are also an excellent way to formulize your entry into the marketplace:

Level 1 – Threshold and suitcase ramps; basic assistive transfer devices; bath safety; and multiple aids to daily living products.

Level 2 – Simple designed modular ramps; portable patient lifts; trapeze; bath/tub lifts; stander poles. All products that require operational training and simple technical instructions.

Level 3 – modular ramps with platforms and turns; grab bars; hand rails.

Level 4 – roll-in showers; walk-in tubs; stair lifts; vertical/incline platform lifts; and wall/ceiling mounted track lifts.

Level 5 – wooden ramps/decks; complex bathroom/kitchen/bedroom remodels; widening doors/ power door openers; non-slip flooring; room additions; indoor elevators. All these require advanced skills and licensing as a contractor/ electrician/plumber or carpenter.

In addition to products, a variety of assessment services can be offered as well. A credentialing program recognized by insurance carriers, life care planners and case managers will make for a total package capable of providing the best solutions to meet your clients’ needs. Through the credentialing process, your associates will be very confident in performing assessments on fall prevention and total home accessibility. This can be a valuable tool for many payer sources, funding organizations, PTs/OTs, case managers and advocacy groups as well. Your company will be looked upon and respected as the independent living professional in your area.

As this type of business is predominately cash based, no credential or accreditation is currently required. With that said, a given portion of the business does deal in the world of Workers Compensation, Personal Injury cases and of course, Private Pay Insurance. For this revenue stream you are much more likely to be successful with credentialed people on staff.

The Certified Environmental Access Consultant (C.E.A.C.) is the most sought after with many payer sources. The credential comes in the form of an on-line training program designed to educate on the importance of “the individual needs of a client”. Other certifications educate on the elements of Universal Design and ADA requirements, while the CEAC credential utilizes both these parameters as a qualified base line, it puts full emphasis on the concept of “specialized or individual design” in order to provide real solutions that directly meet the needs of your client.

The best marketing concepts for this industry have one thing in common: the idea is not just to let people know what you do, but raise public awareness about what is available to them. Many are not aware of the products that can assist them or their clients with everyday activities. Marketing materials and literature are a great way to inform potential clients of what readily available products/services can help alleviate living challenges at home. They inform, they are lightly detailed, but most important they carry a personal message of caring from a professional that can help. These materials are a welcome tool for family members looking to find solutions for a loved one.

As a fairly young industry, the focus on a complete offering of accessibility products and services is relatively new to the marketplace. Some companies have been doing targeted offerings, but as awareness of the emerging market grows, larger companies will enhance their offerings to capture it. A 2010 article in the New England Journal of Medicine did include the following: “Ultimately, health care organizations that do not adapt to the home care imperative, risk becoming irrelevant. It seems inevitable that health care is going home.”

This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Jerry Keiderling is president of the VGM Group’s Accessible Home Improvement of America (AHIA), which promotes home modifications and accessibility solutions. He can be reached at jerry.keiderling@vgm.com.

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