2022 HME Business Handbook: Home Access

Being Prepared To Help Ensure Clients Have Safe Home Access

Home AccessOne question I ask every durable and home medical equipment provider business that I encounter is, “Do you sell things with wheels? Do you sell rollators, transport chairs, wheelchairs, power chairs, or scooters?” For most DME and HME providers, the answer is “Of course!”

In fact, many of the companies that I speak with have confided that 50 percent to 75 percent of their total sales are made up of wheeled mobility products alone. I believe that these numbers are true of the whole DME/HME market. Some stores may specialize in a different equipment category, such as respiratory or sleep services, but even most of those offer some mobility products. And for the provider and the customer, wheels are particularly important.

Most customers’ largest device purchase related to their health will have wheels. The purchase of wheeled mobility often dictates the difference between living a normal life and being a shut-in.

It is a decision that your patient customers take seriously and trust your business for guidance and advice. You spend considerable time making sure your customers make sound decisions on the best devices for their needs. It is equally important to provide them with the means to safely navigate their mobility devices in and around their homes.

PART OF THE PURCHASE

Ask yourself, would you buy a canoe, one you have saved for, scraped for, or financed, and then neglect to buy a paddle? That question seems silly, right? Why would you sell wheels and not go the next few steps to make sure that your customer can get the most use out of their investment?

Consider the inside of the home. When I talked to our local OT/PT group, they recommend that a person in a wheeled device negotiating a threshold higher than a half-inch to have assistance. Most homes have at least three thresholds that meet the “recommend assistance” height. Many caregivers spend an immense amount of time navigating these challenges in the home every day. If your customer does not have a 24-hour caregiver, they might be confined to a portion of their home or put themselves in danger by negotiating thresholds that are not safe. All of this assumes they can get their device into their home.

It is true that some houses are built like a castle on a hill — including the moat! However, most homes can be made accessible for your customer and their wheeled devices for less than a few hundred dollars.

CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE

Ambulatory people often take access for granted. I encourage you to spend a day dragging your feet. Every time your toes catch on something, ask, “Is this taller than my thumb is wide?” If the answer is “yes,” then your customer would get stuck. Every home should be a safe place, so do the experiment around your home. Go from your car to your bed, bath, or kitchen. You will be surprised.

You do not have to be an expert in accessibility or have a degree in engineering to help your customer. Often the exercise described above and a ruler are all the tools you need. Many homes only need a few thresholds to make them completely accessible.

ADA REGULATIONS

I know you may be getting sweaty palms just thinking about the ADA guidelines. A lot of people feel nervous about the ADA regulations at first, but it is not that complex. If you grasp these two simple rules, you will be on the right track.

Rule 1: For every vertical inch of rise, you must travel one foot to dissipate the angle. (In limited situations, you can use a steeper angle, but this rule is always safe.)

Rule 2: If the rise is greater than 6 in., you must have handrails. (Often, handrails are helpful even below 6 in.)

These two rules will guide you in helping a large number of your clients. Just like wheeled devices, ramps and thresholds come in many varieties, levels of quality, and availability. You would not tell your customer, “Just go find a scooter on the internet and have it shipped to your house.” So do not let them buy their thresholds that way either.

Your business and your customers will benefit from increasing your knowledge in this area. Find a reputable company that stands behind its product and is willing to teach you about them. Build a relationship with people that answer your questions and sell you what you need in each situation.

Being prepared can entail stocking simple solutions in your store or just knowing who to call. Support your customer by being prepared with information and tools for accessibility.

POINTS TO REMEMBER

  • Nearly all DME and HME providers serve patients that need safe access to their homes.
  • Home access solutions should be a consideration of most HME purchases.
  • Most homes have accessibility issues for users of wheeled mobility.
  • Adopt the mobility user’s perspective and examine your own home.
  • Two rules can help you keep users’ homes within ADA guidelines.

LEARN MORE

To learn more about home access solutions that help keep customers safe, visit www.access4uinc.com.

This article originally appeared in the May/Jun 2022 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Adam R. Johnson is Sales Manager of Access4U, a company that manufactures accessibility ramps for people who want to live at home. He can be reached at ajohnson@access4uinc.com.

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