The Great American Road Trip: who can resist the call of the open road? Patients with limited mobility want to travel the nation’s highways and byways as much as anyone else, and fortunately, a whole host of auto access products and converted vehicles is there to satisfy their wanderlust. Auto access represents a tremendous opportunity for providers, but how can they tap into it?
“What [patients] want ultimately is freedom,” says Greg Moll, Global Sales & Export Manager for Roll-A-Ramp, which makes auto access ramps that roll up for storage while traveling. “The vehicle access market is growing, with more and more clients with every form of disability wanting to be more active. And, with the exploding aging demographic added in the trend for more access solutions and providers is only going to get higher. This makes for the real opportunity for the HME provider to get into a market that will be there for a very long time.”
And that’s where providers come in, but it is important to understand that auto access is a multi-tiered business. At the basic end, there are products that give providers an easy entry point into serving auto access needs, and at the complex end, lies complete auto access systems and vehicle conversions. That more complex end of the auto access business might be beyond some providers’ reach, but it still provides an excellent opportunity to develop referral relationships.
For providers just coming into auto access, ramps and similar products that do not require modifying vehicles or complex installs are an excellent entry point, Moll says.
“Getting into it with a product where there are no vehicle modifications or conversions is where they want to be,” he says. “Simpler is better and can get them the profit the quickest. It is not a difficult process for the dealer to enter the market on their own; provided they do so with a product line where the investment for both time and money is relatively low.”
And when it comes to providing more complex auto access systems, such as lifts, that providers can look to driver rehab specialists to help meet their patients’ needs, says Staci Frazier, manager of Training and Development for Ride-Away, the largest dealer of modified vehicles in the country.
Driver rehab specialists can get their certification from the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (aka, ADED; www.driver-ed.org), of which Frazier is a past president. She says these professionals will help determine a patient’s current capabilities and needs, as well as his or her future abilities
This is a critical step, she says, since auto access products are so expensive and not covered by Medicare and private payors.
“[Providers] need to establish good relationships with driver rehabilitation specialists and mobility dealers,” she says. “These vehicles represent a significant investment… It’s very different than an able bodied person going out and buying a car.”
To learn how serving up travel expertise and products could open new opportunities for providers, make sure to subscribe to HME-Business, and read our March issue.