Providing Incontinence Service that Prioritizes Patient Dignity
Properly serving incontinence clients requires professionalism, care, discretion and understanding.
- By David Kopf
- Apr 01, 2022
When a patient suffers
from incontinence, he
or she is really suffering
from two things;
the negative impact that their physical
condition is having on their lives, and
the frustration and embarrassment they
feel from an emotional standpoint. Our
youth obsessed popular culture has
done an excellent job of stigmatizing and
mocking the condition of incontinence to
the point that people with the condition
don’t want to talk about it — at all.
Which is surprising from a statistical
standpoint, because the population of
American incontinence sufferers is large.
At least 25 million adult Americans suffer
from some form of urinary incontinence,
according to the National Association for
Continence. Think about that: more than
12 percent of the U.S. population has
some form of incontinence.
Moreover, women comprise 75
percent of that population. A massive
segment of the U.S. population has a
medical condition that they find too
embarrassing to discuss.
If there was ever a moment where
HME providers can establish their businesses
as safe sources for effective products
that are backed by knowledgeable
service, and where patients can safely
review and discuss those solutions, then
they will create client relationships that
can last a lifetime. Here are some ways to
make that happen:
PROVIDE COMPLETE SOLUTIONS
A provider must provide a full range of solutions
so that they can become a one-stop
shop. Adult diapers, catheters, lubricants,
cleaning products, and underpads for
chairs and mattresses are key items. And
there is a large variety of offerings within
those categories to suit individual needs.
For instance, a men’s catheter that
works for one patient might not work
for another, either due to style, material,
physiology, comfort, size, or some other
factor. (Again, we are talking about very
Make sure you stock enough items to
cover all your patients’ needs. Regularly
monitor your vendors to know the new
options available, as the field of incontinence
is constantly evolving.
OFFER COMMUNITY OUTREACH
A big problem for many incontinence
patients is a complete lack of awareness regarding
their condition. Many incontinence
patients go for long periods of time without
being diagnosed. The average wait time
between symptoms and getting a diagnosis
for incontinence is over six years. Moreover,
those patients are likely to address their
conditions on their own, randomly buying
various products and trying them out in
hope of finding an viable solution.
This all comes from a lack of awareness
that your business can easily fix. Engage
in various types of community outreach to
key communities that are likely to suffer
from incontinence. While most incontinence
sufferers aren’t going to line up for
a free seminar, public service awareness
campaigns using a mix of traditional and
new media are a great way to reach those
people to let them know that there is a
helpful, discrete service provider offering
solutions to their problems.
EDUCATE YOUR REFERRALS
While incontinence is both a funded and
a retail business, your referring physicians
and other referral sources can drive a
solid amount of business to a door. The
key is to educate them in much the same
way you educate your patients. Many of
your referral sources are not up-to-date
on what’s available.
This is your opportunity to set up an inservice
or some other educational event in
order demonstrate the range of solutions
you offer, and establish yourself as an
expert resource to whom they can direct
their patients. Given that your referring
physicians are in need of various treatments
for their incontinence patients, but
might not be aware of all the options available,
they will appreciate having a product
expert with whom they can collaborate in order to develop a complete solution for each of their patients.
OFFER DISCRETION, PRIVACY AND DIGNITY
Once incontinence clients are in your showroom, you need to
ensure that you have the right “infrastructure” to properly care
for them. Remember that many incontinence sufferers feel embarrassed
and even stigmatized by their situation, so you want
to provide service that can properly respond to that.
Also, dedicate a completely enclosed, private are with toilet
and washbasin that can let them not only discuss solutions, but
also try them.
That discretion doesn’t just extend to consultation. If you
ship or deliver incontinence items, consider packaging them in
anonymous wrappings or boxes.
If patients come to purchasing items from your store, consider
providing a private way they can pick up larger incontinence
items, such as packages of diapers, in a discrete, careful fashion.
A simply way to offer this is by providing over-the-phone or
online orders and then allowing curb-side or backdoor pickup
in back of the store.
FORM A TEAM OF RESPECTFUL PROS
Ensure that the staff members that will be working with those
patients are educated when it comes to incontinence, and have a
“bedside manner” that combines professionalism, maturity, respect
and discretion, so that patients feel free to discuss their condition.
You must dedicate well-trained, professional staff members
to the task of working with incontinence patients. It’s very
difficult for patients to share all this private information with a
recent high school grad, for example.
Dedicating knowledgeable staff to the task might also give
the patient treatment ideas to discuss with his or her physician.
So, the team members that a pharmacy dedicates to working
with incontinence patients should also have some kind of training
in the normal urinary tract and bowel function, and what an
abnormal one is.
In terms of specific training, start by looking at what your
state HME association, pharmaceutical society or other trade
associations might have to offer in the way of seminars addressing
incontinence. Or you could have a registered nurse come in
and site down with the staff to review basic concepts and treatment
steps for incontinence.
WORK WITH CAREGIVERS
When a client comes into your store seeking incontinence solutions,
there is a good possibility that person might not be the
patient. At times, you will deal with family members, spouses,
significant others, caregivers and other people who are working
as a proxy for a patient.
This is understandable, but it does create some degree
of difficulty, because the go-between is not going to be able
to answer questions with the same level of specificity that a patient can.
Ask some questions to help you
identify if a person is an intermediary,
and if so, encourage them to bring the
patient in for a private consultation. Show
them the various resources you have in
place, and provide a business care for
the staffer with whom the patient would
Better yet, provide a pamphlet that
describes the lengths your business goes
to in order to preserve the confidentiality,
privacy and dignity of the patient while
creating a space that fosters the kind of
open dialog that will result in the patient
getting the right solution.
DEMOGRAPHICS PLAY A ROLE
Urinary incontinence is often mistakenly
seen as a problem that occurs later in
life, which adds to the stress and frustration
of younger, more active sufferers.
One-third of men and women who are 30
years old to 70 years old have experienced
loss of bladder control at some
point in their lives.
Given UI’s stigma, people within the
age range of 20 to 49 might have a difficult
time accepting that they have urinary
incontinence and might use the wrong
products because they are trying to solve
the problem themselves.
Also, many women in these younger
ange have incontinence during and
post pregnancy. Since there are so many
changes in the body during pregnancy
and maternity, women might not realize
that they have bladder weakness and will
use feminine hygiene products instead of
using the correct incontinence management
Here again, the pharmacy should try
to reach out to these patients and referral
partners to understand that they can
provide discrete, knowledgeable and
KNOW THE PRODUCTS
Of course, you can’t help incontinence
patients without the right products. The
pharmacy should be stock a complete
range of offerings range from adult
diapers and pads to cleaning products,
Additionally, the pharmacy team
should be trained to understand which
products are right for a given patient’s
condition. Developing that expertise in
both the products, the physiology and
the incontinence conditions will help to
establish your pharmacy’s reputation as
a reliable, trusted resource.
This article originally appeared in the DME Pharmacy April 2022 issue of HME Business.