Problem Solvers

Making Life Easier for Everyone

How HMEs can add ADLs to their offerings, and benefit not only patients, but their bottom line.

For home medical equipment professional Sue Sharp, aids to daily living products (ADLs) serve a great purpose and fill a need for not only her business, but the patient and the caregiver as well.

“They are nice benefits that add on to a sale,” What I like in particular is they show that we care about the patient holistically ... it’s the smaller things, like getting in and out of a car, that make a difference,” says Sharp, who owns Mobility Express of Georgia, a company that sells, services and rents HME equipment. “It enhances our client’s whole experience.”

ADL products are ideal for patients suffering from chronic pain or illness, those recovering from an injury, patients with arthritis or diabetes — or essentially anyone with limited mobility.

Aids to daily living are attractive to home medical equipment providers because the products are not typically tied to Medicare reimbursement and can be a great add-on to larger, durable medical products, thus creating a multiple selling opportunity. One item is funded, and the related ADL drives cash revenue. Providers can easily display their ADLs in-store, using planograms or locating them near the checkout counter or on an endcap.

“Because of their low cost and when they are displayed or positioned correctly, customers or the end users in their store will purchase them. They may be purchased on an impulse buy,” says Darren Abrams, marketing manager for Drive Medical Canada Inc.

Troy Holland, national sales manager at ADL manufacturer Stander, says ADLs are a good cash sales category because most providers don’t realize a lot of ADL products are even available.

“They’re the perfect upsell because customers come into their store looking for something else and ADL products are generally lower in cost,” says Holland. “They’re usually cash and carry items, so the dealer ends up increasing the average dollar amount spent by each customer that comes into his store by a significant amount.”

Types of ADL products

ADLs run the gamut from classic products to newer, innovative products that are not just for those with limited mobility. Classic products, these are the items that typically come to mind when talking about ADLs, can include reachers, grab bars, sock aids, long shoe horns, dressing sticks, magnifiers, weighted utensils, bibs, personal care, grooming items and transfer devices.

“The classic ADL products all come from the key categories of dressing, eating, homemaking and leisure activities,” Abrams says.

Sometimes it’s the simple products that go forgotten by retailers because they aren’t reimbursable by Medicare. One example is the Great Grips rubber doorknob covers, which allows for a door to be opened with the touch of a finger, a fist or an elbow.

“It’s a product that anybody can buy and give to their parents or use in their home,” Holland says. “It’s not just for limited mobility. It just makes opening any door easier, and that’s a product that nobody would ever think about.”

And bed rails can do more than just keep someone in bed. Anyone that uses a cane for mobility can use a bed rail as a handle to help stand up out of bed or get back into bed. Auto safety items, such as car door handles and swivel seat cushions also aren’t often thought of by some retailers.

“A retailer’s mindset needs to be ‘what aren’t they thinking about’ and ‘what can I provide that will increase the cash sales in my store to those people’ and ‘what products can I provide to do that?’” Holland says.

Changing designs

The 76 million-member Baby Boom generation and their parents represent two key market opportunities for retail ADL sales. In many instance Baby Boomer patients have the available spending cash to get their parents the ADL items they want and need, and, as those Baby Boomers enter retirement themselves, they will remember the providers they worked with to help their parents when the time comes for them to acquire those very same ADLs for themselves.

Because of this, many ADL vendors are updating the designs of their ADL offerings to appeal to growing market segments such the Baby Boomers. Manufacturers are now designing these products to look like a pieces of furniture or fixtures that will go well with a home interior decor, instead of the previous more “functional” looking products that might have done the job, but weren’t exactly all that attractive. Now ADLs are starting to look pretty darned good.

“There has been a change, and it’s more to the side of being a warmer, look and feel to fit more into their home,” Holland says. “Most of the ADL items that are starting to come out and be innovative are ones that cater to the Baby Boomers.”

Drive’s Abrams says manufacturers are moving toward more retail-friendly packaging to appeal to Baby Boomers.

“Many of our products increase the appeal of the product at store level,” he explains. “We’ve also come out with trilingual packaging, so English Spanish and French.”

Descriptions of how of the products are used with accompanying images and as making many products look more like common household items also help increase the appeal to Baby Boomers.

Marketing and merchandising

Solid marketing and merchandising efforts are two keys to driving patients toward your ADLs offerings. Holland has noticed an uptick in HME providers that are also doing retail sales offering information seminars at local long-term care facilities, hospices or even at their own store. During these seminars, the provider can show the products say include messages such as “Did know that these products were available” or “Each of you knows somebody that can use these products.”

The ability to work with manufacturers on product discounts and advertising is one aspect of cash sales that sometimes goes unrealized by providers. Some manufacturers also offer a guaranteed sale on their products, so if they product doesn’t sell the provider can return it and get 100 percent of their money back.

“A lot of retailers or dealers don’t know to ask the manufacturer to help them with some of their advertising,” says Holland. “Everybody’s working together, manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers alike, are working together to get through these cutbacks from Medicare and reimbursement side to transition to cash sales.”

Great Grips

Aids to daily living such as the Great Grips from ADL maker Stander is an excellent example of how such products can solve a problem shared by multiple patients, while coming in at an attractive price point that makes them ideal for providers’ cash sales efforts.

An attractive showroom is another way to get clients to take notice of your ADL offerings. Retailer Sue Sharp’s showroom in the Atlanta area is more than 5,000 square feet and is set up in real-life, practical situations for customers to imagine themselves in. For example, clients can try out the car door handle and swivel seat cushion in the automobile in her showroom or use the bed cane or bed caddy in the hospital bed display.

“The settings are very user-friendly, and it brings the practicality or the usefulness of the products to the front of the mind,” Sharp says. “It makes the experience real for the usefulness of the product.”

The upsell for ADLs is a natural part of the retail for process for Sharp.

“It’s easy and they sell themselves,” the Peach State provider explains. “We find our customers thanking us for showing them these products that they had no idea were even out there. That’s the part that I think is key.”

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

About the Author

Cindy Horbrook is the associate editor for HME Business, Mobility Management, and Respiratory & Sleep Management magazines.

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