Products & Technology
10 E-Commerce Winners
Now that providers are starting to enter the world of e-commerce, what are some HME categories that genuinely sell online?
- By David Kopf, Leila McNeill
- Sep 01, 2018
For a few years now, providers have been entering the wild and woolly world of e-commerce, and while it’s been a bit of a learning curve, they are starting to hit their stride. They are figuring out how to pair e-commerce with their existing brick-and-mortar businesses. They are starting to figure out how to reach their customers online in a scalable way that leverages their expertise. They are starting to figure out what model of e-commerce works for them (see, “HME’s three e-commerce models” on page 15). And they are trying to figure out which products sell.
To that last point, HMEB asked Christina Throndson, director of business development for VGM Forbin to discuss the HME product categories that are natural sellers in an HME context. Some might seem like naturals and others might surprise you, but we determined a top 10 and not only got Throndson’s thoughts on why these categories are e-commerce winners, but also assembled some great examples of the types of products that can fall into those categories.
Before we dive into those categories, Throndson highlighted that many of these products not only drive new revenue, but accomplish another key objective for providers: they promote patient re-engagement. HME providers are very unique businesses — they do a whole lot more than online retailers — but one thing online retailers do well is drive re-engagement.
“I hate trying to relate or reference Amazon as a comparable model to our HMEs because that’s not necessarily the right fit for everyone by any means,” she says. “But, when you make a purchase from Amazon, before you check out, it’ll give you suggestions of products that other buyers have purchased. [Amazon has] new sections on their app that let users show how they used their products. They check in with you. They’re really trying to re-engage you.”
That’s a lesson providers should take to heart, because they are so good at establishing patient relationships.
“How can providers continue with that stickiness, that relationship, whether it be through sharing knowledge and expertise, tips?” She says, adding that providers can monitor client activity and see when they browsed certain products and then check back in to see if they are still interested in that product or something that’s related to it. “Maybe it’s, ‘Hey, you want a CPAP? How are you going to clean that?’ Giving that information, you’ve now gained a partnership with me as an individual. I rely on you and I trust you to provide that information and want to tell more people. It builds our reputation as a whole. It’s got to be regular. It’s got to be relevant. It’s got to be reengaging. It’s not just a one-and-done.”
Bearing that in mind, what are the kinds of HME product that drive interest and that drive re-engagement? Throndson outlines 10 compelling categories:
- Bath safety
- Sports therapy and pain management
- Accessories and items related to funded products
- Aids to daily living
- Mobility products
- Walkers and rollators
- Sleep therapy systems
- Resupply items
- Women’s health
If you’re looking at that list and wondering why portable oxygen concentrators aren’t on it, there’s a reason behind that. For a few years, POCs had been the poster child for driving retail revenue on the web and even some businesses sprouted up that were dedicated e-tailers of POCs. However, VGM Forbin’s Christina Throndson says that the momentum is starting to slow.
“There was a huge hype a few years ago in getting into portable e-commerce,” she says. “Lately, I have seen less interest than there was.”
The value proposition of buying POCs online certainly still holds value, according to Throndson. Having a prescription really doesn’t hold back a lot of clients from still purchasing online, because they don’t have to go through the hassles of getting a doctor to sign off and working with a provider to file a claim. If they have the cash, they’re still game. However, the pace of those transactions isn’t as fast as it once was.
“It’s still a trend,” she says. “I just think that there are fewer businesses engaging in that because it’s getting more and more saturated of suppliers providing that. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be done. I’m not saying it can’t be done.”
Okay, so with all that said, let’s dive into the various listings to get Thrdonson’s take on these 10 winning e-commerce categories for HME, and see some examples of those products, as well.
“Bath safety is still big,” Throndson says. “I wouldn’t say commodes would be number one, but I would say grab bars are still a huge item online, and just anything making again life easier. ‘What’s in it for me? How can I enhance my life in some shape or form?’ How do we take care of ourselves and have the solution as opposed to do that? People are really being proactive in their approaches toward independent living. The solutions are there to makes bathing safe and easy.”
Nuprodux compact tub slider system makes bathroom transfers safer
The Nuprodx multiCHAIR 6000 is a tub slider system designed for in-home setup. The slider system utilizes a center-of-mass design to centralize the user’s weight through the entire 30 degree tilt range, which allows for a more compact base for small tubs and safer bathroom transfers. The seat height adjusts 24.5 in. to 27.5 in. and comes with optional 17 in. L x 20 in. W or 20 in. L x 17 in. W frame and cushion size. Its aircraft-grade aluminum, brass, stainless steel and plastic frame ensures that the slider system will not rust or corrode and can support up to 300 lbs. in weight.
Suction balance bar lends flexibility to safety and support
Balance Bars add safety and a sense of security to bathrooms, but they often require tools and help for proper installation. To simplify the installation process, Safe-er-Grip’s balance bar uses suction cups to fasten itself to surfaces to smooth, flat and nonporous surfaces, like a tile wall or bathtub. Users only need to press down and release the tab levers on both ends of the bar to fasten and loosen for easy installation and removal. The bar comes in sizes 11 in., 17 in. and 24 in.
Support arms and backrest add comfort to bathing seat
The Lumex Platinum Collection from Graham Fields features optional support arms and backrest. The rust-resistant anodized aluminum frame is both lightweight and durable with a maximum weight capacity of 350 lbs. The maximum seat height is 20 in. and the minimum is 17 in., adjustable in 1 in. increments. The overall width is 20 in., suitable for most standard built-in bathtubs. No tools are required for installation or use.
GF Health Products Inc.
SPORTS THERAPY & PAIN MANAGEMENT
“When you’re talking about health across the board, one of the categories is sports therapy, for sure,” Throndson says. “If you’re looking for a broader audience and you have some of these pain relief and healing products, make sure that your audience knows that you supply them and how they can be used. It’s a product that is diversified. It doesn’t only have to be for a 65-year-old woman in her pain of whatever it may be, but maybe this is also something that would work for a 14-year-old male.”
Support for Active Moms
Mothers working to stay fit and active during pregnancy can get extra support to help them keep moving and exercising with the Gabrialla Active Mom Maternity Support Belt. The belt is suitable for the gym, walking, running or just receiving extra support during the day. The medium-strength 6 in. support belt has a compression design that will help stabilize users’ hips and reduce low back pressure, so they can remain comfortable throughout your entire pregnancy. The belt is adjustable and designed to grow and change along with a woman’s body all the way through to postpartum recovery.
Gabrialla Maternity and Women’s Health
PediFix Heel gives relief to painful skin cracking
As many women age, they become more prone to cracked skin on the heels. Pedifix Heel So Smooth heel sleeves help relieve and soothe the discomfort that can result from cracking with its propriety Visco-GEL material that gradually releases vitamin E enriched mineral oil onto the skin as the user wears the sleeves. Because of the material’s long release, the sleeves are ideal for use while sleeping or resting. The sleeves are washable and reusable.
PediFix Footcare Company
Promote pain relief with non-invasive solution
The Aspen OTS Line is a non-narcotic, non-invasive solution that combines the needed level of support and direct independent compression to promote effective pain relief. The patented pull‐through sizing mechanism and highly visible size indicators allow for quick and easy adjustments while the low-profile design enables them to be comfortably and easily worn underneath clothing. Each brace can fit waists ranging from 28‐54 inches and up to 64 inches with the extension panel.
Aspen Medical Products
Relieve knee pain with warmth, strength, and support
The KS7 Knee Bracing Sleeve offers easy-to-put-on fit for continuous support, day or night. The sleeve eliminates bulky straps and inconvenient immobility, and a non-slip design keeps the sleeve in place.
ING Source Inc.
“Incontinence really shouldn’t be discredited at all,” Throndson says, but advises that even online providers still need to focus on discretion and trust-building. “Incontinence is another personal item where the provider definitely wants to build a relationship and have a trust built so patients know that it’s not going to be embarrassing for them to ask for items or to have them ordered.”
Absorbent underwear helps deliver an uninterrupted night’s sleep
Tranquility Premium OverNight Disposable Absorbent Underwear is designed to provide extended wear time and to hold up to 1 quart of fluid overnight. Its core keeps skin dry, reduces odor and neutralized urine pH, and the pull-on style with easy tear-away side panels provides easy and clean removal. It is available in sizes from XS to 2XL.
Principle Business Enterprises Inc.
Skin care line helps reduce infection risk
Elderly patient and people with limited mobility are often at risk of infection due to lowered immunity combined with prolonged skin contact with irritants from incontinence. By keeping sensitive areas of skin exposed to irritants clean and dry the Seni Care line of skin care products helps reduce the risk of infection. The skin care line includes three products to be used in succession: Seni Care Washcloths (available in fragrance-free) or Cleansing Body Cream to prevent skin breakdown from wetness and bacteria, Seni Care Moisturizing Body Lotion to hydrate and smooth affected skin and Seni Briefs to reduce wetness.
TZMO USA Inc.
A convenient, pocket-sized catheter kit
Designed for men, Cure Medical’s Hydrophilic Cure Kit is a lightweight, ready-to-use catheter, designed for discretion and one-time-use. The Kit includes a 16 in. hydrophilic intermittent catheter, ambidextrous gloves, BZK wipe, underpad and collection bag with a universal connector. The Kit is sold in 90 units and comes in French sizes 12-16.
Cure Medical LLC.
ACCESSORIES AND RELATED ITEMS
This is a very broad category, and if anything almost represents a business approach. Basically, this fits the so-called “caretailing” model of identifying retail HME products related to funded items and then connecting with customers. But given that the approach has proven itself on the sales floor, it is now proving itself online. It’s all about trying to lengthen the revenue cycle per customer as much as possible while also getting them to further enjoy and value the funded items they already have.
CleanRest Mattress Pad rolls three products into one
CleanRest’s new Platinum Encasing Mattress Pad combines the comfort of a quilted mattress pad with the protective benefits of a zippered encasement. The padded encasement combines three products into one, serving as a bed bug barrier, a dust mite and allergen barrier and a waterproofing and stain barrier. It is made out of MicronOne fabric, which keeps the encasement light and breathable. The encasement fits mattress sizes Twin, Twin XL, Full, Full XL, Queen King, California King and Hotel King.
Long-life battery doubles CPAP’s overnight battery
The PowerShell with Extended Life Battery integrates with the Z1 CPAP to become a fully integrated battery solution that lets patients take their CPAP therapy anywhere they want to go, even off the power grid. The New Extended Life Battery has twice the capacity of the original Overnight battery. For those patients who already own a PowerShell with the original battery, HDM will upgrade their PowerShell firmware with the purchase of an Extended Life Battery.
Human Design Medical/Breas Medical Inc.
Diffuser dramatically decreases CPAP noise
The QuietAir diffuser vent elbow for ResMed’s latest CPAP full face masks, the AirFit F20 with silicone cushion and AirTouch F20 with memory foam cushion, reduces noise by 89 percent and produces a 70 percent gentler exhaled airflow, compared to ResMed’s previous design. With the device, ResMed’s full face masks’ noise levels are well below ambient noise in the bedroom, according to the company. This allows for a quiet, uninterrupted night of sleep and mitigating two barriers to therapy compliance: noise and bed partner comfort.
CPAP pillow overs multiple ways to drive cash
The CPAPMax Pillow helps patients reach and stay compliant by dramatically improving their sleep. The pillow has four adjustable heights, a dual-sided cover, plush fiberfill or 3D mesh, and ventilated foam to keep the user cool and comfortable. It is compatible with all mask types and accommodates all sleeping positions. It also has customized pillowcases that can be added to increase average sales, which are available in blue, beige, and white.
Contour Products Inc.
AIDS TO DAILY LIVING
The little things in life can go a long way, and patients can come to value simple ADLs for helping them live more independently.
Invacare adds adjustable arms to toilet seat
Like earlier models, the Invacare Clamp-On Raised Toilet Seat With Arms 1320RTS has a contoured seat for internal rotation of the hips, rear seat wings for secure attachment, easy-to-clean durable molded composite and an easy Clamp-On mechanism for more secure attachment to the bowl. This model, however, features new adjustable locking arms, which gives the user more comfort and added safety. The seat fits most round bowl configuration and does not require any tools for assembly or use.
(800) 333- 6900
Life-saving device offers ease of use, peace of mind
LifeVac is non-invasive, non-powered, portable airway clearance device that is used in a choking emergency if standard. The device uses a patented one-way valve which prevents air from pushing the obstruction downward. This creates a one-way suction to remove the obstruction and clear the airway of the victim. The negative pressure generated by the force of the suction is three times greater than the highest recorded choke pressure.
It might sound surprising, but mobility is another big category for e-commerce. There are a lot of retail sales to be had for travel wheelchairs, scooters and similar mobility items that cater to standard power mobility needs. Also, there are unique products like all-terrain mobility devices that might not necessarily fit standard funding criteria. Also, providers are starting to create short-term rental models online for traveling patients who need a temporary solution while they’re in town.
“People want to get around,” she says. “They want to still have their independence. I think when you’re talking about some of the older generation, a lot of these products are around independence.”
Pride Mobility introduces new iTurn-Technology
The Jazzy Zero Turn power chair features a tight 38.25 in. turning radius, giving this four-wheel power chair the maneuverability of a three-wheel chair. Pride Mobility’s patent-pending control system iTurn Technology works with the chair’s two motor drive to allow users to navigate tight corners and spaces. Other features include CTS suspension, full LED lighting package, and built-in USB charger for portable devices. The chair uses two 22 amp-hour batteries for an operating range up to 10 miles. The Jazzy Zero comes in six colors: Fire Opal, Green Moonstone, Onyx Black, Pearl White, Pewter and Sapphire Blue.
Pride Mobility Products Corp.
All-terrain vehicle takes users to the outdoors
The Zoom is a four-wheel drive, all-terrain mobility vehicle designed to make outdoor recreation more accessible to wheelchair users. It is capable of handling many types of off-road conditions, like snow, sand, hills and rocky terrain. On a smooth surface, the Zoom batteries will last up to 25 miles, and for rougher terrain, the battery life will range from 15-19 miles. The Zoom’s maximum speed varies by market with the maximum speed set to either 12 mph or 9.3 mph and the optional high-/low-speed selector with reduced speeds set to 3 mph to 6 mph.
Portable power chair ships ready-to-roll
The Special Edition (SE) folding power wheelchair is made of a durable, lightweight aluminum alloy that supports passengers weight of up to 330 lbs. The portable SE Chair folds and unfolds with a push of a button and weighs 59 pounds, which makes it convenient for transport, travel and storage. The SE model also includes a 12 inch rear wheel system for better performance on all surfaces. This FDA-approved power chair ships directly from Florida fully assembled, and once charged is ready to go.
KD Smart Chair
WALKERS & ROLLATORS
Walkers and rollators represent a cornerstone piece of traditional, “bent metal” DME, but there are a whole lot of online buyers looking to get new solutions, and don’t feel the need to wait on funding for their product. Moreover, there are many family members who are willing to buy these solutions for relatives as well.
LifeWalker introduces new upright walker design
For nearly 40 years, the design of walkers for seniors and people with limited mobility has remained the same. LifeWalker has changed that with their new UPWalker, which enables users to walk safely in an upright position instead of the usual slouched position. The walker features four 8 in. rubber wheels, adjustable height armrests, lockable brakes, and sit-to-stand padded handles. The UPWalker can be used indoors and out. Optional accessories include a cane holder, flashlight, smartphone holder, luxury carry bag and shopping bag.
LifeWalker Mobility Products
Lightweight Paddle Walker makes folding and transport easier
Invacare’s I-Class Adult Paddle Walker features a paddle release mechanism that makes folding the walker from a sitting position easier for people with dexterity challenges. PVC handgrips provide comfort for longer use and anti-rattle silencers for quiet operation. The wide and deep aluminum frame weighs only 5 lbs. 5 oz. and has a weight capacity of 300 lbs, and an adjustable height range of 30.4 in. to 37.4 in. accommodates wide range of users. The Paddle Walker is available in junior and adult sizes.
Free2Go Rollator combines mobility with bathroom safety
The Free2Go Rollator is both a walker and a toilet safety device rolled into one product, which allows a user to discreetly use a toilet safely in any setting. The toilet seat is covered by a flip-up padded seat, which contains a pouch for disposable wipes for cleaning the seat after use. The walker allows for adjustable handle height at 33.5 in. to 38 in. and a seat weight capacity of 300 lbs.
Free2Go Mobility Products Inc.
SLEEP THERAPY SYSTEMS
Many patients will get their main PAP therapy device through funding, but then go on to purchase a travel option, or perhaps a better unit than the one their insurance will fund, or they simply look at their co-pays and determine that they get a bigger bang for their buck if they buy online. And of course, patients with HSAs represent another solid market opportunity. As a result core sleep therapy systems remain a solid category for e-commerce, Throndson notes.
Small CPAP adapts to patient breathing
The Z1 Auto CPAP is a light travel CPAP that measures 6” x 3” x 2” and weights 10 oz. The Z1 Auto can be packed to go anywhere users want to go. It is an auto CPAP which adapts to the patient’s breathing to deliver lower overall pressures and delivers a better breathing experience. It can also be set to fixed pressure mode. The patient’s sleep data can be easily downloaded via Bluetooth to the free mobile app, Nitelog, or onto a Windows PC via USB to Dataviewer.
Human Design Medical/Breas Medical Inc.
CPAP with Bluetooth connectivity lets users monitor their health
The IntelliPAP 2 AutoAdjust CPAP uses a predictive algorithm that learns a user’s natural breathing pattern and then adjusts how much humidified air should be delivered. It also features built-in Bluetooth, which lets users synch their IntelliPAP 2 to the free SmarkLink app (available from the App Store or Google Play). With the app, users will receive simple, color-coded feedback on their therapy, frequent reports on usage, and reminders for machine maintenance and care. User data can also be sent to a healthcare provider at the user’s discretion.
Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare
Tiny CPAP a game-changer for traveling sleep patients
ResMed’s AirMini might be small, but packs ResMed’s clinically proven sleep technology along with its comfort and ease-of-use features into a portable, pocket-sized device. ideal for traveling. It is available with ResMed’s proprietary AutoSet functionality, and a built-in humidification system for patient comfort.
Throndson notes that resupply items for various patients, such as sleep therapy patients and wound care clients, is a huge opportunity not just because it offers opportunities to make revenue, but because it creates opportunities for increased patient engagement, which only helps to cement patient relationships.
“I would say that the resupply is a big thing,” she says. “For sleep customers, their mask, their hoses, how about wound care customers? How about, ‘Oh, I just need this little part?’ — whatever that item might be. There are lots of different areas of resupply that can lend to the reengagement and even new prospecting customers.”
100FD Mask Series adds comfort to full-face coverage
To make PAP therapy more comfortable, the 100FD Mask Series removes the forehead pad and replaces it with a soft silicon cushion with a frame stabilizer to evenly redistribute pressure over a large surface area. The series comes with two options, which includes the Trimline with a 15 mm diameter and the Economy with a 22 mm diameter.
Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare
Full-face mask with memory foam cushioning
ResMed has announced its AirTouch F20 full face mask with UltraSoft memory foam mask cushion. The cushion adapts to the contours of each patient’s face, creating a personalized fit for the ultimate experience in cushion comfort. It is designed to reduce facial markings and skin irritation, even when sealed firmly against the skin. AirTouch fits 98 percent of patient faces and is uniquely natural, breathable and allows excess heat and sweat to escape.
Custom packaging options to help resupply thrive
Sunset Healthcare Solutions Tube and Filter Resupply program offers a customizable CPAP kit with an entire three- or six-month supply of CPAP tubes, disposable and non-disposable filters. Kits may potentially include items from Sunset’s full line of CPAP products, such as masks and cushions.
Sunset Healthcare Solutions
Low minimum order quantity for resupply items
Providers can create a professional image and improve patient loyalty by private labeling their CPAP tubing, filters and customized tubing/filter kits. Include an insert with helpful replacement tips and related cash items, all branded to your company with your information. Providers can enjoy repeat supply orders and additional cash sales directly from their patients. Compass offers a minimum order quantity of 50 each/pack and includes replacement tips informing patients how often tubing and filters should be replaced.
Compass Health Brands
The trick of providing women’s health products is knowledgeable and caring service that caters to personal issues such as post-mastectomy care, maternity, and incontinence. This not only lets providers take the trust they build in person and leverage that for more sales online, but it also lets them reach new clients who can get more information through browsing.
“It’s these personal experiences that while it makes sense that I need the right expert, I don’t always want to just go in, walk into any store necessarily, initially at least if I don’t have a relationship with you,” she says. “I want to learn more.”
Cure Medical expands size ranage for its catheter for women
Cure Twist, a ready-to-use catheter specifically for women, is now available in French sizes 8-16. The Cure Twist is designed to look like a cosmetic product for discretion and convenience and features a twist open top and polished eyelets on a pre-lubricated straight tip for no drip cathing. Cure Twist is also available with an Insertion Kit, which includes a BZK wipe, ambidextrous gloves, underpad and collection bag with a universal connector.
Cure Medical, LLC.
Storm Sneaker from Vionic boosts buoyancy
The Storm Casual Sneaker utilizes Vionic’s orthotic technology to maximize foot comfort and support. The lace-up sneaker features a lightweight, flexible textile and durable rubber sole for buoyant movement. It has a highly-flexible pattern that is available in Black, Light Pink and Navy Black.
Vionic Group, LLC.
EVERSHEER combines fashion and compression
Compression hosiery does not typically go well with business or formal dress. EVERSHEER, however, offers medical graduated compression hosiery that is both fashionable and comfortable. EVERSHEER comes in seven different colors: Dark Navy, Natural, Sun Tan, Café, Mocha, Nightshade and Black. New colors Toasted Almond and Warm Sand will be available in September. This hosiery is ideally suited for pre- and post- vein treatment with minimal edema patients who prefer fashionable options.
This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of HME Business.
David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on Twitter at @postacutenews.
Leila McNeill is a former associate editor for HME Business and Mobility Management.