The 2013 HME Handbook: Bariatrics

Building Your Bariatric Business

How to create a range of services for bariatric patients.

BariatricsAs the rate and predicted long-term outcomes for obesity prevalence in America remain dire, HME providers need to seriously consider the opportunities arising from this unfortunate and alarming trend. The CDC says that approximately 35.7 percent of adults and 17 percent of children are obese. Other studies published over the last year warn that by 2020, Americans could reach an obesity rate of 75 percent to 80 percent.

With that, a recent survey shows that the patient count is rising:

  • 38 percent of responding facilities have seen a slight increase in admissions of morbidly obese patients in the last 18 months.
  • 74 percent of the respondents have seen an increase in the number of bariatric surgeries over the last 18 months.
  • 61 percent of the respondents have seen an increase in the number of related reconstructive surgeries over the last 18 months.
  • 6 percent of the respondents indicate they offer bariatric programs specific for pediatric patients.
  • 60 percent of the respondents indicate the average age of pediatric patients is younger than 12; 40 percent of the respondents indicate the average age of pediatric patients is 15 to 18.

Bariatric patients can suffer from multiple co-morbidities, thus leading to multiple product needs, giving HME providers opportunities to create revenue streams while helping this ailing population. Here are some tips to consider when creating a range of services for bariatric patients:

  • Experts believe that HME providers looking to supply equipment to the bariatric market should offer a wide range of product 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 increase independence, such as threshold ramps and grab bars.

  • Most patients are looking to stay in the home, so perform a home inspection.
    A walk-through will help you create a range of services that can help patients meet that goal of being able to stay in their homes comfortably and safely.

  • Look at servicing long-term care facilities, which are typically concerned about admitting bariatric patients because equipment costs are high. Consider asking these facilities to rent equipment and then provide the services needed when the patient is discharged.

  • Create relationships with discharge planners and care plan nurses. Prove to them you have the knowledge and products to take care of their patients.

  • Solve problems for patient caregivers who are nervous about lifting and transporting bariatric patients. Demonstrate products that not only help the patients but also keep caregivers from harm.

  • High-quality products may cost more but in the long-term, they are safer, less prone to wear and better at withstanding the weight and pressure of patients.

  • Become a bariatrics bath expert. This is one for the most commonly used and most dangerous rooms for a bariatric patient. Towel racks and even toilet paper holders become grab bars for patients who don’t understand what is available on the market.

  • Become a bed expert. Beds, sheets, mattresses, transfer systems and rail guards are just some of the products a bariatric patient may need.

  • Visit the home to see the current setup. List how you can help make the home more practical and safe for the patient.

  • If your bariatric patient is bed bound, it is necessary to understand wound staging and the types of mattresses and products that cater to that population. Generally, the more severe a pressure wound, the more complex the mattress that will be required. A patient with a single stage 2 sore or less might simply need a gel overlay, while a patient with multiple stage 3 or 4 wounds might need a low-air loss, alternating pressure mattress. When choosing a mattress, account for other co-morbidities the patient may have.

  • Keep in constant contact with equipment manufacturers for new items that will benefit the bariatric market. Attending trade shows and symposiums usually provides the dealer with new items and with items that have been modified specifically for this market.

Not intended to be a complete list, here are common health conditions and products associated with bariatric patients. Many of these products can be used for multiple health conditions listed, depending on the state and severity of the bariatric patient.

Health conditions Products
Metabolic Syndrome
Type 2 diabetes
Coronary heart disease
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
Infertility (women) and erectile dysfunction
Gall bladder disease
Obstructive sleep apnea
Gastroesophageal reflux disease
Some cancers (endometrial, breast, colon)
Bariatric pressure redistribution support
surfaces and seating and positioning systems
Respiratory medications
Transfer lifts
Hover mats
Shower chairs
Grab bars
Incontinence pads
Wound dressing and supplies
Skin care products

Points to take away:

  • Rampant obesity is giving HME providers a tremendous opportunity to help an ailing bariatric population and create additional revenue streams to help their businesses.
  • Expand your services outside patients’ homes and visit long-term care facilities to see what services and products they need.
  • Bed-bound bariatric patients will likely present more co-morbidities than those patients who ambulate. Make sure you can recognize and help treat any new problems.
  • Create a plan on how you will service each co-morbidity that a bariatric patient presents.

Learn More:

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

HME Business Podcast