Golden Opprotunity: Compression for Pharmacies

Almost one out of every two customers that enter a pharmacy could have chronic venous insufficiency. Are pharmacists missing out by not pushing compression products?

compressionPharmacies are increasingly the focal point of care for their communities, especially as more pharmacies offer traditional healthcare services, such as flu shots, physicals, vaccinations and various screenings. These services are beacons drawing people into the pharmacy every day — people undoubtedly with ailments that the pharmacy could service.

One such ailment is Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI), which is a problem with the flow of blood from the veins of the legs back to the heart. This condition can result in aching pain, tired legs, leg heaviness, swelling, numbness, and itching or an irritated rash on the legs. According to Web MD, people with CVI are likely older, female, overweight, inactive, and smokers, and have a family history of varicose veins.

“CVI, the progressive disorder that compression garments treat, is believed to affect 40 percent of the U.S. population,” says Matt Howard, director of sales for compression garment maker SIGVARIS. “This means that almost one out of every two pharmacy customers could have an interest or need in compression therapy garments. CVI is most prevalent in people over the age of 50, so with the aging baby boomer generation, the customer base for these products is growing.”

The possibilities for compression run beyond the needs of CVI sufferers. Simple tired, achy legs could be the result of standing for long periods of time, and pharmacists could identify these customers and introduce them to compression garments.

“Pharmacies have a captive audience walking through the door that will benefit from compression,” explains Heather Trumm, BSN, RN, CWON, director of wound care for the HME member service organization The VGM Group. “People at risk for venous disease are ones that stand in one spot for long periods of time, such as nurses, factory workers, teachers, medical professionals, flight attendants and hairdressers. Compression is also used after surgeries to prevent any embolisms in the legs.”

Kam Howard, executive vice president of Knit-Rite, agrees that anyone who sits or stands for long periods of time can benefit from wearing gradient compression. But also important is that with each region, city or community being different, pharmacies should look at what potential customers in their area meet this simple indication.

“Exploring new demographics can expand the customer base from just the traditional pharmacy customer,” he says.

Marketing Compression Garments in the Pharmacy

ATN Compression Socks, formerly known as Total Compression Solutions, manufactures medical grade compression socks aimed at anyone on their feet for long periods of time. According to ATN president Kelly Krumplitsch, ATN’s primary demographic has been nurses, physicians and other healthcare providers who spend a lot of time standing or walking. Through their healthcare clients, Krumplitsch explains they get many referrals for patients in other types of occupations, including chefs, construction workers, teachers, bank tellers, retail professionals, truck drivers, train engineers and anyone who has had varicose vein surgery.

“The average person is wearing 20 mmHg to 30 mmHg compression to take care of their legs,” she says. “They get all the clinical benefits of increased circulation and decreased muscle soreness and fatigue, while managing pain and swelling associated with varicose veins.”

Along with offering basic style compression socks, knee highs and thigh highs, ATN has what Krumplitsch calls their fashionable fun prints — bold, colorful compression wear with myriad colors, styles and prints to choose from.

“Ours fashionable fun prints don’t look like medical leg wear,” she ays. “With that, we see higher patient compliance. When people are referred to wearing compression socks, they have that ability to be fashionable and fun, and people can express their style with these different prints, and they don’t look like they’re a medical product.”

Kam Howard agrees: “Gone are the days of only beige nylons,” he says. “While referring practitioners and customers may fall back on the traditional beige or black gradient compression products, today’s customers want options. Customers are wanting more out of their compression garments from fashionable features like patterns or colors to comfort features like innovative wicking yarns and breathable materials.”

Another excellent reason for compression to be fashionable is that it draws more people to a product category that they might not have paid attention otherwise, according to Matt Howard. This lets the consumer take active measures toward chronic venous disease, while not compromising their personal style.

Matt Howard says that for CVI, 40 percent of pharmacy foot traffic could be in need of a compression garment. But he also argues — and this has been backed by other DME compression experts — that compression has benefits for just about anybody who wears it.

“Compression garments come in a variety of strengths to both treat a wide range of CVI symptoms, as well as provide preventative measures toward the disease,” he says. “There’s a common misconception that only specific patient types need compression. However, with the wide range of therapy options that treat and prevent a wide range of symptoms, just about every adult can benefit from a simple change of socks.”

Matt Howard recommended that from a product standpoint, the minimum must-stock compression items for pharmacies are knee-high garments in 15mmHg to 20mmHg and 20mmHg to 30mmHg.

“These products would address the most common needs in chronic venous insufficiency,” he says. “The biggest challenges would be lack of in-stock product and an awareness of disease states, so it’s important for pharmacies to partner with compression manufacturers that provide marketing materials for patient education aiding in product pull through.”

As stated previously, Krumplitsch recommends carrying the 20mmHg to 30mmHg compression socks. And while they offer thigh-highs and full pantyhose, the knee-highs are what seem to be most comfortable for customers.

“Carry knee-high compression socks and carry at least one solid print, say black,” she says. “And then also carry anywhere from three to four different patterns. If it’s a smaller pharmacy, maybe two patterns. But, generally, three to four patterns in fun prints and different colors, and then also carry the range of sizes, which is small to triple XL because it’s so critical that compression socks fit properly. They are not worn by shoe size — they are fitted by a quick 10-second measurement: measurement of the ankle, circumference at the smallest point and the calf circumference at the widest point.”

Krumplitsch says that whenever a new pharmacy carries her products, ATN sends educational information, measuring tapes, and leg mannequins. ATN also customizes orders for whatever the pharmacy needs are.

“Sometimes a pharmacy located next to a hospital, may say, ‘All of the staff at this hospital wear navy blue,’ so they want some different patterns that are going to match the hospital workers’ scrubs,” she explains. “We work with each pharmacy that’s interested and each medical office to pick the patterns that they think their customers might like best.”

When it comes to cross-selling compression in the pharmacy, Matt Howard said travel and pregnancy offer excellent opportunities.

“If customers are coming in for travel vaccinations, medications for motion sickness, or even general travel sundries, compression socks are always a good recommendation,” he says. “People are at higher risk for lower extremity blood clots during long periods of travel, so this is a great customer to talk to about compression. Women are at a much higher risk of developing CVI symptoms during pregnancy, so if a customer is in for prenatal items, it’s a great time to educate them on compression products, too.”

This article originally appeared in the DME Pharmacy November 2017 issue of HME Business.

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