Problem Solvers

Gaining the Right Expertise

Offering compression products presents providers with a solid retail opportunity, but it's not a slam-dunk. How can providers get the right skills and knowledge on their team?

Today’s providers are on a constant quest for ways to drive new revenue, and compression represents a key opportunity to do so. Compression can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including foot swelling, wounds, mild edema, varicose veins, thrombosis, varicosities of varying severities, and diabetes. These various ailments represent an equally wide variety of patients that need those compression solutions.

And because compression is typically sold on a retail basis, this means the new revenue providers can yield from compression products and services will be free from costly Medicare-related complications such as documentation and audits. Given the large number of diabetic patients, seniors and other major patient populations that need compression, the volume of transactions can grow very large. Enterprising providers that specialize in compression can quickly find themselves deriving as much as a quarter of their revenues from compression garments alone.

“Bringing in compression garments offer a great way to bring in some additional cash sales for your business,” says Melissa Gwozdz, market analyst and communications manager for compression garment maker SIGVARIS Inc. “According the American College of Phlebology, more than 80 million Americans suffer from venous disorders. Symptoms include achy legs, varicose veins, cramps, leg fatigue, leg swelling, spider veins, skin discolorations and leg ulcers.

“In addition one in five working men and women experience leg problems,” she continues. “Many people don’t know how a simple change of socks can make their legs feel better on a daily basis. By simply asking people what they do for a living, finding out if they have to stand for long periods of time and asking if they ever have tired, achy legs, can open a window to talk to anyone about compression making it a great way to get add on sales.”

Going to School

But providing compression is not an instant slam-dunk. Ensuring successful outcomes for compression patients comes down to compliance. So, 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. Deeper expertise is needed on-staff to ensure the best treatment for patients.

“If you really want to grow your compression business, you need to establish relationships with local physician to help build your business,” says Judith Brannan, associate director of Education & Medical Affairs for SIGVARIS. “Getting educated about compression, disease states, and products will allow physicians to feel confident about sending their patients to you. Compliance is important to physicians because they want their patients better. You can help work with patients to find products that will be easy to incorporate into their daily lifestyle.”

A key way for key staff members to gain this knowledge is 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. SIGVARIS offers such a course, according to Brannan.

“By becoming a SIGVARIS Certified Fitter, you are able to really help patients because it provides a better understanding of venous diseases, product knowledge, and how to help patients,” she says. “It allows physicians to feel confident that their patients are going to be well taken care of. The business will be come known as a place in the community that not only sell compression products but one that can also work with patients. More and more physicians will start sending their patients. You’ll also get patient referrals from their friends.

“It can also help with knowing things like which products are best for patients with specific health concerns such as sensitive skin or diabetes, for example,” she adds.

Course Details

SIGVARIS offers a basic and advanced fitter course, as well as online courses. The courses typically take one or two days to complete, with the basic course consuming just one day. More information can be found at bit.ly/1OKNgZe.

“We have great feedback about how surprised people are by how much they learn in just one day that can really help their patients,” Brannan says. “We have also offer webinars for continued learning from time to time.

“We plan where to hold these courses based on interest, so providers should always ask us if they don’t see one in their area,” she adds. “Our territory managers are also happy to come to a business and do some training.”

The net result of even the one-day course is having the right insights into different patient disease states and which types of compression can help.

“Participants of our course will walk away with knowledge about venous anatomy and venous disorders, how to properly measure and fit patients for compression, tips and tricks for fitting difficult patients, and understanding about compression and the different types of products available,” Brannan explains.

And those products range beyond the compression garments themselves. Because compression garments are so tight, it can be difficult for some patients with flexibility or joint issues to put them on and take them off. As a result, special devices have been developed to help patients accomplish that, and a certified fitter can help train patients on how to use them.

“Sometimes compliance is an issue and some patient’s with very limited dexterity may have trouble putting on stronger levels of compression,” Brannan explains. “SIGVARIS makes several products to make donning easily. We also construct many of our products with double covered yarns to help them glide on easier and reduce the friction against the skin. For some patients layering garments will help get them to the compression level they need.

“By attending a SIGVARIS Certified Fitter Course, those who leave the course will have a greater understanding on how to select the appropriate products for patients, when to suggest donning aids as well as tips and tricks to share with patients regarding donning and doffing,” she adds.

In terms of the number of staff that should get certified in fitting compression garments, Brannan recommends a minimum of two people get the training for each provider location that will be offering compression.

“The more people who are able to assist people walking in a store the better,” she says.

This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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