The 2014 HME Handbook: Compression

How to Tap into Compression Market Opportunities

Compression marketThese days, providers are on a constant for ways for expand their businesses, and compression represents a key opportunity for HMEs to serve new patients and drive new revenue. Compression can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including foot swelling, mild edema, varicose veins, thrombosis, varicosities of varying severities, and diabetes. This is where providers can help, by offering a range of compression solutions and ensuring staff can knowledgeably assist a wide range of patients.

Better yet, the revenue from compression products is usually cash sales and free from Medicare. There are only a few Medicare scenarios in which compression is reimbursed by Medicare, so for the most part compression transactions are done a retail basis. And given the large number of diabetic patients, seniors and other major patient populations that need compression, the number of transactions can get very large. Providers that specialize in compression can often derive as much as a quarter of their revenues from compression garments alone.

That means that providers can concentrate on all the sales and marketing appeals that can drive increased sales. And sales and marketing is an important consideration because, at the end of the day compression garments are clothing, and that means that fashion can play a role. Compression or no, people want to feel what they’re wearing makes them look good. That opens a wealth of marketing opportunities for providers.

But before providers dive into marketing, they still need to get familiar with compression fundamentals:

Understanding Compression

The best place for providers new to compression products and services is to start by understanding what compression is. Essentially, compression garments help provide support and increase circulation for the limbs and areas of the body suffering one condition or another. Compression garments appeal to a wide number of patients, and there are different “strengths” of compression garments that are used to different patients.

Compression is measured in millimeters of mercury and can range from 15-50 mmHg. Higher levels of compression are typically customized. Lighter compression products start out at 15-20 mmHg, which are for tired, achy legs, mild edema, varicose veins and foot swelling. This level of pressure can also help to prevent vein thrombosis. Higher levels of pressure such as 20-30 mmHg is for severe varicosities, for open face ulcers, moderate edema and post surgery. This level of compression also helps to prevent the recurrence of venous ulcers, moderate to severe varicosities during pregnancy and thrombosis. For people who have ulcers, lymphatic edema and varicosities, they typically need 30-40 mmHg. Once you go beyond 40 mmHg, you’re getting into customization.

Gaining Expertise

Once the provider gains an understanding of the compression basics, deeper expertise is needed on-staff to ensure the best treatment for patients. The best way for this is for key staff members to become certified compression fitters. Fitters receive training by going to different classes and seminars that are typically put on by the manufacturer of the product. The fitter will review a patient’s history and ask key questions to ensure an appropriate fit.

And that’s important, because ensuing successful outcomes for compression patients comes down to compliance. From a clinical perspective, one of the key elements for a solid compression business lies in fostering compliance. Even after being given a prescription from a doctor, some patients will come in to get fitted and still might not wear the compression product.

However, compliance isn’t always easy to achieve. Simply put, compression garments can be hard to put on for some patients. Bearing that in mind, a key role for fitters is to show patients how to don and doff compression garments, especially hosiery. The most common mistake patients will make is that they will put on compression hosiery as though it were a typical sock; by bunching the compression sock up on their hands at the point above its heel. Then they’ll try to pull it up over their toe area and then their heel, which is very hard to accomplish.

Providers can help them by training patients on the different methods for fitting compression socks. Because compression garments can be so hard to put on, this actually creates another sales opportunity, since there are special products called stocking donners that help patients get in to the hose. Providers should stress to customers that not wearing the hose could lead to more severe swelling, and there’s also a risk of blood clotting.

Working with Referral Sources

Additionally, fitters should work with physicians to ensure doctors are aware of the many different levels and applications of compression. The fitter can look at the diagnosis to determine what level of pressure will work best for the patient. The doctor will provide guidelines of what he or she wants to achieve in terms of treatment, and the fitter can help accomplish that. Doctors will also be key referral partners for you, so ensure you develop a good rapport with physicians and their staff to ensure they see your business as a solution provider for their patients.

Points to Remember:

  • For providers wishing to drive new revenues, compression offers a way to tap into several large patient populations.
  • Nearly all compression transactions are retail, which is significant in terms of the sales and marketing possibilities that opens up for providers.
  • Providers must first start by understanding compression fundamentals, and should definitely have team members that are certified fitters.
  • Providers must also work with referral partners to help educate them as to what is available so they can advise their patients about what you offer.

Learn More:

  • Compression is an important part of HMEB’s coverage, especially as it pertains to cash sales. To stay on top of new retail opportunities and strategies, check out or Cash Sales Solution Center.

This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of HME Business.

HME Business Podcast