Need a Lift?
The aging Baby Boomer population is advancing the market for patient lift products, as are the cost advantages of home care versus institutionalized care. Gordon Harmon, senior director of the Home Care division at ArjoHuntleigh, sees patient handling products becoming more home care-friendly, less institutional in design and more ergonomic for a home setting. Products are smaller, lighter, more versatile and designed to blend better into the home environment. The costs of the products have also come down.
Catering to Clients
More elderly people are tapping into their savings for money to finance their desire to remain in their home, equipping it with stair lifts and other patient lift products, says Hans Sigvardsson, senior vice president of sales at Handicare. Customers want the design of products to blend in, be pretty and become part of the home environment, he says, and many HME/DME providers are missing the boat on cash sales. “They are set in their ways, and the market requires new thinking. You have to cater to clients in a different way and have an image as a provider of nice things. You have to put the products in the showrooms and have something to show.”
Harmon sees educating the market as a challenge. “People don’t know our products are out there,” he says. “Customers are amazed to find out what products can do for people in the home.” Misconceptions about cost are another problem. “People think ceiling lifts cost $10,000, but they can cost $3,000.” The Internet provides education to many consumers, which makes it doubly important that HME providers be able to respond knowledgeably to their questions.
There is an ongoing necessity in the patient lift market to educate the public on the value of investing in lift equipment rather than attempting manual lifting, which presents a risk to both caregivers and care recipients. Patient lifts have been shown by research to reduce injuries measurably, says Emily Berman, associate product manager of the Durable Medical Equipment division at Medline Industries. “Research studies support a clear correlation between utilizing mechanical equipment and a reduction in back problems, skin tears and other patient and caregiver injuries.”
Mike Serhan, executive partner at Drive Medical Design and Manufacturing, also sees a lack of education about what products are available, and HME providers aren’t generally recognizing that knowledge gap or filling it with information. Providers also tend to view the market too narrowly and don’t consider broader customer needs such as equipment for the kitchen, bathroom and other rooms of the house, he says.
Emphasis on Fall Prevention
A greater awareness of fall prevention is one way to increase the market for lift products, according to Serhan. He suggests focusing more attention on the large and growing population of homebound persons who are somewhat mobile and just need a little extra help to be independent. Like others in the market, Serhan sees opportunity in the 50-plus Baby Boomer demographic, which will control two-thirds of the country’s discretionary income by 2015 and can afford to invest in mobility and lift products. Traditional “patient lift products” are for a relatively narrow range of customers, he says, and providers should look for broader opportunities related to the aging population and fall prevention.
His figures show that about a third of the population over age 65 fall each year, and the number increases with age. More than half of people age 80 and older will fall, and more than half of senior patients who are discharged from the hospital for a fall-related hip fracture will fall again. Falls are a leading cause of death due to injury in the elderly, and 55 percent of falls happen at home.