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Is Your Business Bariatric-Ready?

How providers can cater to the unique dynamics of the bariatric marketplace.

The bariatric marketplace is on the forefront of the minds of doctors, caregivers, facilities, DME providers and manufacturers across the nation. Statistics prove that more than one-third of the U.S. population is overweight, and in 2009 to 2010, it was reported that 35.7 percent of adults — more than 78 million — and 16.9 percent of children and adolescents — about 12.5 million — were obese. By the year 2030, it is predicted that 42percent of Americans will be obese.

This demographic can be more susceptible to heart conditions, type II diabetes, stroke, rheumatology and orthopedics, and certain types of cancer. In 2008 alone, $147 billion was spent treating these conditions. Why so much, you may ask? Because people in this demographic can require specializedequipment and specialized care.

As we continue through this decade, it is likely we will see this population increase even further. As an HME provider, it is important you are poised toproperly service this market segment and develop your business further.

Be Sharp and Sensitive

Whether it is bath aids, mobility devices, or home modifications, this demographic will need products that are durable, adjustable, and provide increased accessibility. Have a well educated staff that is not only sensitive to this clientbase, but is also up to date on the latest product offerings and innovations.

Providers who are willing to employ new and creative marketing strategies to drive consumer awareness on a consistent basis also drive more traffic to their showroom, and ultimately, more sales. Include tips and testimonialsabout access and independence on your website and brochures.

Providers should utilize a store plan-a-gram to lay out their showroom in an efficient and visually appealing manner, being conscious to put adequate space between products for easy browsing. Set up your showroom by groupingbariatric products together and promoting the latest and greatest solutions.

Partner with a manufacturer that offers the merchandising collateral to help you accomplish your bariatric marketplace goals. Often, a manufacturer will have a number of support services to help you meet your merchandising needs, and can often be able to offer advice on the most effective techniques toget people in your door.

Compliment Every Product Solution

Consider this: 30 percent of people aged 45 to 64 are considered obese. They may not have a need for equipment or supplies yet, but, unfortunately odds are they will in the future. Providers should set reasonable expectations early on in the process in terms of meeting bariatric clients’ needs. Be thorough in your product and accessory research, and be absolutely sure you are comfortablewith the diverse seating and positioning needs of these individuals.

Providers looking to supply equipment to this market should have a wide range of product offerings and brand names and incorporate a product up-sell strategy by offering accessories and aftermarket products. Make suggestions that could compliment the product you are supplying and further increaseindependence, such as threshold ramps and grab bars.

Whether you provide a heavy-duty manual chair or a power operated vehicle (POV), be sure the equipment you provide is the right size for your client. Providing the correct size equipment with the proper weight capacity and seating from the get go reduces the likelihood of complications arising dueto improper sizing.

Once you have a product selected that supports your client’s weight, size, and unique needs, make sure it is adjusted to allow for the most amount of access and weight distribution possible so the client can safely reach the sink, transfer to a commode, navigate a hallway, etc. Do you have the measurements of his or her doorways, the height to the kitchen counters and cabinets, or space between the bed and wall? Keep all of this information in mind when properly servicing your client in his or her day to day life and use creativethinking to address potential accessibility challenges.

Build Goodwill, Leverage Referral Sources

As providers, it should go without saying that communication between you and your client is of the highest importance. But, you should also understand that the role of the caregiver is of critical significance with the bariatric consumer, so the product education for this marketplace is typically for both end user and caregiver. Therefore, build lasting relationships with people of the utmost importance to your client. They can oftentimes provide you with vitaldetails that your client may have overlooked.

Provide quality service after the sale. You have taken the time to provide the correct equipment, so be sure that product is going to able to withstand the rigors of daily use and last for a reasonable time period. Otherwise, your clients will be frustrated and your bottom line will be impacted by numerous service calls. Remember, when your client and his or her caregiver have had a positive experience working with you, they are likely to share this news with others. Positive word of mouth is a great way to bring in additional referral sources, including occupational and physician therapists, case managers,nurse practitioners, social workers, and primary care physicians.

Market your company and the products and service you provide to your clients and referral sources. Have a wide variety of collateral materials that detail the extensive products and services you have to offer the bariatric market. Also, think about cross branding. If you’re the local mobility expert within your area, consider partnering with a home and/or automobile modification supplier in the area. Sharing referrals can be a great way to pull resources and stretch your advertising dollars. Together, you may even participate in community events that can raise awareness of the products andservices you provide.

If you keep your team of employees educated and armed with knowledge, have a varied product selection that is sensitive to the needs of your clients, and properly market your business by having a go-to reputation, your futuresales will grow.

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Ted Raquet is the VP of domestic sales for Pride Mobility Products Corporation, Exeter, Pa. Ted can be reached via e-mail at traquet@pridemobility.com or by calling (800) 800-8586.

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