Answers from industry experts
by Kristin Easterling
November 29, 2017

DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE

Dr. Scott Fried
Founder

www.docinthehouse.com

What is your specialty? What conditions are best served by your products?

shoulder splintNeck-free Shoulder System

FRIED: I am an orthopedic/hand surgeon and treat problems such as rotator cuff injury, carpal tunnel, arthritis and tendinitis, as well as back and neck pain. Nerve pain and strokes as well as pain problems are also part of my practice and the focus of our devices at Doctor in the House.

How do orthopedic softgood products differ from compression products?
FRIED:These products are designed specifically to help relieve compression and pressure on the nerves and soft tissues of the body. Our shoulder device, the Neck Free Shoulder System, takes pressure off the shoulder joint and rotator cuff, easing arthritis pain, with no pressure on the neck and upper arm.

What strategic shifts in thinking have occurred that have helped grow the business?
FRIED:The public and system now demand legitimate medical products that are indicated for the orthopedic problems they are prescribed for.

How has the market for these products changed during the last three years?
FRIED:The market has been flooded with lower quality products, many of which are built to just meet a code with no thought given to patient outcomes. With insurance companies making it more difficult in nearly every HME category to make a profit, more companies are entering a space like softgood orthotics. However, because of the low quality, low-priced items introduced in the last three years, the patient is the one who ultimately suffers.

SWEDE-O by CORE PRODUCTS

Barbara E. Mauss
National Sales Manager

www.swedeo.com

Arthritic GlovesArthritic Gloves

What conditions are best served by your products?
MAUSS: Swede-O by Core Products products focuses on pain management for sports injuries, arthritis and repetitive stress injuries and more.

What forces have put the most pressure on this product category?
MAUSS: Reimbursement and audits … [and] the proliferation of products on the internet have put a downward pressure on profit margins and taken business away from traditional distribution channels.

How do you differentiate your products from others in the category?
MAUSS:Swede-O by Core Products has developed a line of thermal supports referred to as Thermal Vent Supports. Thermal Vent consists of a microventilated, breathable membrane that is comfortable against the skin and provides free flow air that allows the skin to breathe. These supports provide gentle compression and warmth to help reduce swelling and associated pain as well as promote recovery.

Why should orthopedic softgood products be attractive to HME providers?
MAUSS: Orthopedic softgood products can be a profitable cash revenue source for HME providers when approached as an integral part of their business.

What are the key considerations patients/caregivers should know about orthopedic softgood products?
MAUSS: Function—making sure the product is appropriate for the condition. Ease of use—does the patient have limitations that would prevent them from using the product. Comfort—if the product is not comfortable for the patient undoubtedly there will be compliance issues.

What tools do you provide to help educate dealers and potential product users?
MAUSS: Core Products has developed easy, turnkey tools to increase retail sales, attention grabbing signs, informational brochures to educate staff and customers that are quick and easy to set up and all provided free of charge.

BROWNMED

Matt Garver
Director of Marketing

www.brownmed.com

shoulder ice packPolar Ice

What is your specialty?
GARVER: Brownmed is a family-owned manufacturer of orthopedic products. We’ve been manufacturing products for patients with acute injuries or chronic illnesses like arthritis, fibromyalgia and diabetes for more than 50 years.

What forces have put the most pressure on this product category?
GARVER: We’ve seen increasing price pressure and a win-at-all-cost approach to manufacturing products. The results have not been good for patients, as we’ve seen a flood of lower-quality products that look similar, but lack the efficacy of more proven products.

How do you differentiate your products from others in the category?
GARVER: Our focus has always been on the patient. Our arthritis care products are marketed under the IMAK Compression brand and are often compared to traditional, neoprene compression garments, which become hot, sweaty and uncomfortable after one or two hours. This limits their efficacy for those with chronic pain conditions like arthritis. Our IMAK Compression Gloves and Sleeves are designed with all-day comfort in mind. The result is a difference you can feel and products that are comfortable enough to be worn all-day long.

How are you responding to the demand for value-based medical products/devices?
GARVER: An increased focus on delivering superior outcomes in the industry through value-based medical products is pushing product lines increasingly to become more systematic in their approach. As a result, we’ve seen an uptick in adoption of our Seal-Tight products for infection prevention and other uses beyond traditional cast and wound protection.

How can HME providers realize profitability with this category?
GARVER: HME providers can take steps to realize profitability by focusing on strategies that increase consumer loyalty. One way to do that is by providing an array of quality products that deliver long-term value and pushing customers towards those products that have the highest consumer ratings in the market.

ALEX ORTHOPEDIC

Linda Lavi
Vice President of Marketing

www.alexorthopedic.com

wrist splintUniversal Wrist Splint

What is your specialty? What conditions are best served by your products?
LAVI: Alex Orthopedic, Inc., specializes in products that cover the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, back, abdomen, thighs, shins, calves, ankles and feet. The products we provide are elastic, neoprene or state of the art new breathable fabrics.

How do orthopedic softgood products differ from compression products?
LAVI: Orthopedic products differ from compression items primarily in their construction and the way they are used—for bracing and support. Orthopedic items may contain hinges, spirals stays, hook and loop closures.

How has the market for these products changed during the last three years?
LAVI: The older segment is living longer, more active lifestyles, and the younger ones are doing more sports, such as weekend warriors, and sports competitions.

How do you differentiate your products from others in the category?
LAVI: Alex Orthopedic, Inc., products are differentiated from our competitors, simply because we still make a good percentage of our products in the United States. This enables us to provide specialized sizing for our customers, and also have a faster response and turnaround time.

Why should orthopedic softgood products be attractive to HME providers?
LAVI: HME dealers find products, like Alex Orthopedic softgoods to be attractive for several reasons: The dealer gets hands on, face-to-face time with the end user, giving them the opportunity to fit the user with the correct product, let them try it before buying, and turn it into a cash sale.

How can HME providers realize profitability with this category?
LAVI: Alex encourages our customers to turn to retail products and cash sales, by offering preselected planograms, or working with them to choose the best product selection for their store.

How do you approach product development?
LAVI: Our approach to product development is through our conversations with our customers, as they express needs for changes and new products

What tools do you provide to help educate dealers and potential product users?
LAVI: We offer online videos and downloadable wearing instructions.

OROTHZONE

Tom Traver
President

www.orthozone.com

Counter display of productsThermoskin Pain Relief Counter Display

What conditions are best served by your products?
TRAVER: Our products manage arthritis, diabetes, sports injuries, plantar fasciitis, soft tissue injuries and RSI, among others.

How has the market for these products changed over the last three years?
TRAVER:We have seen a dramatic shift in the cash sale segment of the business. Homecare stores have increased their retail offerings, and consumers are much more open to paying cash for orthopedic softgoods.

How do you differentiate your products from others in the category?
TRAVER: Our Thermoskin orthopedic supports are clinically proven to increase skin temperature and circulation for pain relief and injury treatment.

How are you responding to the demand for value-based medical products/devices?
TRAVER: To help dealers offset reimbursement cuts, we have added some less expensive product options for billable products.

Why should orthopedic softgood products be attractive to HME providers?
TRAVER: Their customer base is a prime target market for orthopedic softgoods. A customer visiting their store to pick up other supplies may benefit from an arthritis support or other orthopedic softgood. So the dealer can gain incremental sales by carrying orthopedic softgoods.

How can HME providers realize profitability with this category?
TRAVER: An often-overlooked aspect of profitability is inventory management. There are a wide variety of orthopedic softgoods and sizes to carry. For example, a typical dealer will carry six sizes of wrist braces, left and right, for a total of 12 SKUs and facings. Orthozone now offers a One Size Fits Most wrist brace, so the dealer can carry two SKUs instead of 12. We have seen more interest in universal sizing from our dealers and have developed new products to meet this demand.

What tools do you provide to help educate dealers and potential product users?
TRAVER: The best education comes from the Orthozone staff and our local representatives. There is simply no substitute for hands-on training. We also offer retail displays and literature to educate dealers and potential users.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Join the conversation. Upcoming topics include ramps, footwear, billing software, medication management and more. HomeCare also has its 2018 editorial calendar available for your planning. Contact the editors:ecarey@cahabamedia.com or keasterling@cahabamedia.com for more information.