Invest in credentials, retail for O&P success

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Monday, October 28, 2019

Effectively serving the orthotics and prosthetics market requires more than just casual attention to the product and service lines of the category. For O&P to be a successful business venture for HME providers, it takes a commitment to learning the products and the patients who need them, specialists working in the field say.

It starts with seeking and securing the appropriate O&P certification credentials, as well as learning about the retail environment associated with the people who use these products. Attaining credentials from the Board of Certification/Accreditation and Association of Boards of Certification gives HME providers a leg up in the competitive marketplace, says Evan McGill, executive vice president of business development for Kansas City, Mo.-based Knit-Rite.

“The advantages of the certification credentials from BOC and ABC encompass long-term education programs and supervised residency, which are really essential for comprehensive, especially structural, O&P care,” he said. “I also think O&P providers need to maintain a close relationship with their referral sources—they need to be able to provide a team approach with efficient, effective care.”

Shrewd communication and documentation are essential ingredients for patient rehabilitation, which is a holistic process, McGill says.

“This isn’t just for O&P, but diabetic treatment and compression, as well,” he said.

Have a retail strategy

O&P products—especially soft goods—are conducive to retail sales and developing a sound retail strategy is an important element of success in the category, says Tom Traver, president of Blaine, Minn.-based Orthozone.

“A good selection of O&P products, an attractive retail display and knowledgeable staff are key elements for success in this space,” he said. “Many manufacturers offer product training and marketing materials to help with store staff training at no charge. Retail signage and point of purchase material may also be available from manufacturers.”

Most HME providers are well positioned to be successful supplying O&P, Traver said, because they already have a customer base that can be served by these therapeutic products.

“For example, some customers may have arthritis or other conditions that would benefit from O&P products, such as arthritis gloves or circulation slippers,” he said. “Dedicating a portion of their retail space to O&P products will drive incremental sales.”

Dave Higgins, president and CEO of Hickory, N.C.-based ING Source, says the retail mentality can be assumed by augmenting business perspective.

“It takes seeing your company as both a medical provider and a retailer,” he said. “The retail mindset means being organized and presenting products attractively, as if you are selling general merchandise.”

Becoming well-versed in consumer buying habits and their preferences and attitudes goes a long way toward establishing a solid retail presence, Higgins said.

“HME providers have to think of their patients as customers first,” he said. “These patients don’t think of themselves as patients—they think of themselves as people with needs that are looking for products to fill those needs.”

Think demographically

Carrying O&P products gives HME providers a major opportunity to expand their customer demographics beyond seniors and Medicare beneficiaries, Higgins said.

Sports medicine is a growing field and the need for orthopedic products extends to younger adults who need surgeries from athletic mishaps. Attracting this younger clientele means networking with sports medicine physicians and rehab therapists that serve them as key referral sources.

Higgins says appealing to younger consumers is as simple as different packaging and merchandising approaches. For instance, ING Source has two brands for what is essentially the same products geared for two distinct audiences.

The OrthoSleeve line of sleeves and braces is designed for adults with mobility issues, represented with comforting packaging that reflects it, while the OS1st line features a bolder black and silver color scheme and emphasis on athletics. The packaging and branding for OS1st has done so well, ING Source has allocated more resources toward it, Higgins said.

“This is a real opportunity for HME providers to attract a younger, more active consumer base,” he said.