Demand growing for heavy-duty products

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Monday, February 3, 2020

Strong demand for heavier-duty home medical products has made the bariatric category one of HME’s biggest growth areas over the past decade. And manufacturers in the field say that obesity rates continue to be stubborn within the American population, so the necessity of producing bariatric versions remains vital.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2017 show trends of public weight gain for people age 20 and older 10% higher over a 17-year period from 1999 to 2016. In 1999, the CDC reported that the percentage of people listed as obese was 30.5%, expanding to nearly 40% in 2016. Not only are these numbers concerning about the general health of the population, but they also present challenges for equipment manufacturers, says Olivia Phillips, associate product manager for Elyria, Ohio-based Invacare.

“The challenge is the need to offer products with higher weight capacities while still maintaining a competitive price point within the market,” she said. “With the higher weight capacity requirements also come products that are heavier in weight, wider and have a larger footprint. This creates its own set of challenges for patients to carry out daily living activities with ease. Providers are further burdened with reimbursement constraints.”

Jay Brislin, vice president of Duryea, Pa.-based Quantum Rehab, agrees that the obesity epidemic is still driving the bariatric category and that it places specific demands on manufacturers.

“We know the importance of designing and developing specific products focused on meeting the needs of the bariatric population,” he said. “Although we have several product offerings in the HD and VHD product codes, we realize that this population needs even more focus for future product development.”

Bariatric evolution

The quality and breadth of bariatric product offerings have significantly improved within the industry over the last several years, but the need to further advance the evolution of these products is paramount, says Renae Storie, vice president of Pride Mobility.

“Product awareness within the industry always leans toward the highest volume category—300-pound weight capacity and under—but there are many high-quality products over the 300-pound weight capacity available that we as industry professionals need to continue to educate others about,” she said.

While manufacturers continue to keep weight capacity in mind when developing new products to meet the demand of the U.S. market, Phillips also observes that online shopping for bariatric products has also grown substantially.

“It’s easier than ever for clinicians and patients to view bariatric product offerings,” she said.

Evaluating new products

When assessing the state of bariatric products in the production pipeline, it is important not only to focus on the additional development of products, but to “work hard to ensure clinicians and providers are fully educated on the products available to the bariatric population,” Storie said. Moreover, “as clinicians and providers work with more bariatric clients, we as a manufacturer need feedback and input about what they are seeing on a daily basis and what types of future products can help improve the independence of bariatric clients.”

Jim Lein, president of Farmers Branch, Texas-based Dalton Medical, says 48-inch and 54-inch wide heavy-duty beds, trapeze bars and patient lifters with 600-pound and heavier weight limits are commonplace now. However, it is the 26-inch, 28-inch and 30-inch wide heavy-duty wheelchairs “are poised to become the fastest-growing segment in coming years,” he said. “This will create a huge opportunity in the bariatric market for HME providers.”

Brislin acknowledges that “the population definitely needs an influx of new products with technology advancements” and promises that new bariatric products will be forthcoming in 2020.

“Pride and Quantum have put even more focus into designing products to meet the needs of bariatric patients,” he said. “We realize that the needs of this product segment is like any other, but the challenge is ensuring your products can continue to meet and exceed expectations while being able to perform with a client above the 300-pound weight capacity.”

Currently there is a litany of standard HME products that are helpful to bariatric patients, including walkers, rollators, seat lift chairs, scooters and bath safety products such as commodes, bath chairs and transfer benches. The best sources for new product ideas are referring bariatricians and clinicians, Phillips said.

“Staying engaged with referral sources is very important to ensure the success of HME businesses today,” she said. “Helping keep the referral sources up-to-date with the new products available on the market is very important to ensure the clinicians are recommending the product best suited for the patient’s needs. Quick highlights are best for busy referral sources as their time is often limited. Ultimately, a great partnership between the referral sources and provider is a win for the most important person involved, the patient.”

 

Category: Bariatrics

 

DRIVING FORCE

·       Obesity rate high: Demand for bariatric-grade products continues to be strong due an obesity rate that grew 10% from 1999-2017. Nearly 40% of adults age 20 and older are listed as clinically obese.

 

EVOLVING MARKET

·       Decade of growth: The quality and breadth of bariatric products has improved significantly over the past 10 years, with heavier-duty weight capacities and wider selections available for clients.

 

CRITICAL FEEDBACK

·       New product ideas: Manufacturers are seeking input from bariatricians, HME providers and clients about how new product designs will improve users’ mobility and independence.