Welcome To The Neighborhood: Tips For Manufacturer Success In Home Care

Home healthcare is a booming market that is rapidly transforming thanks to increasing consumer demand and policy changes that are dramatically shifting the sector’s landscape. The changes make it ripe for manufacturers and distributors to offer their skills as home care services are expected to grow significantly, including hospice and round-the-clock care.

A group of experts from the medical manufacturing and distribution industries met in November at a HIDA Educational Foundation’s Home Care Thought Leaders event to discuss what’s ahead for home care and to identify challenges and opportunities. They all agreed it’s a complex market to navigate. There are multiple types of companies in the home care space, and many different customers – the patient, caregiver, payer, or distributor to name a few.

Home Care Is A Natural Winner

Home health care will continue to surge in popularity. The nation is putting an increased focus on these products and services as a greater share of baby boomers retire and seek additional care options for chronic disease. It’s part of a larger trend that’s been unfolding over the last decades to decentralize care so that patients are served where they choose. Event participants shared what’s top of mind when it comes to servicing the home health care market and offered solutions for success.

Product & Package Design: Keep It Simple

  1. Make products reimbursement-friendly by considering factors like package quantity Manufacturer Tip: Monthly reimbursable allowance for foam dressings is 12, but manufacturers currently include 10 in a box. By including 12 per box for home care, you can reduce the labor cost to repackage and expedite the shipping process. The less a distributor is required to touch a product, the better
  2. Offer a storage-friendly product amount for an individual in the home
  3. Create simple instructions that aren’t clinically complex
  4. Include web and email addresses on packaging to offer more detailed information online
  5. Consider consumer preference for organic products and environmentally friendly packaging
  6. Make it easy to open package and unbox to alleviate frustration for frail or tired fingers, and it curbs the need for using a sharp blade to slice open a box
  7. Respect patient privacy by offering discrete product labeling that doesn’t announce specific personal products such as incontinence items.

“Shipping a box to a front porch is a whole different ball of wax than shipping crates to a hospital.”
  —Colton Mason, Co-chair of HIDA’s Home Care Council and SVP, Supreme Medical
“We’re working daily to build programs for providers that solve their problems. We’re building best-in-class products. We’re looking at the way it is packaged. We’re offering education to the users.”
  —Brent Poythress, VP, HME Corporate Accounts, McKesson Medical-Surgical

Logistics: Make It Seamless

  1. Consider product weight and whether more than one person is needed for delivery and set-up Manufacturer Tip: Freight dimensions are just as important to consider as weight. A rolling walker is often shipped in a large box that can incur as much as an additional $20 in freight cost because of box size. If a manufacturer made just a slight shift in reducing packaging dimensions, costs could go down.
  2. Identify who is responsible for addressing package theft to address accountability and decide whether a signature should be required upon delivery
  3. Establish alternate delivery points outside of the home where a patient or caregiver could go to pick up a package
  4. Understand the challenges of urban vs. rural delivery such as restrictions for large trucks in cities and difficult to navigate roads in farm areas
  5. Offer “smart tracking” for certain items such as temperature-controlled products to alert the customer when product arrives
  6. Split shipments to provide faster delivery and superior customer service

Manufacturer Tip: In home care, distributors are not running vans to facilities. It’s important for manufacturers to be aware of home delivery rural freight costs.

Marketing & Sales: Build Consumer Demand

  1. Connect with patients digitally via social media platforms
  2. Review company and product SEO and availability of information online as the internet is often the patient’s primary source of information
  3. Have a presence in support groups to gain a deeper understanding of patient concerns
  4. Offer testimonials by trusted partners or other patients about services and products

Education: Think Holistically

  1. Offer multiple languages for descriptions and instructions
  2. Introduce the patient to a product in a trusted setting, such as a doctor’s office
  3. Make product reviews easy to find and access by offering direct links via marketing
  4. Educate payers about hidden costs in getting the product to the patient (gas, shipping)
  5. Train drivers to do a home scan for added value, rather than just dropping off products on the porch

Manufacturer Tip: Connect with the patient every day about the products you make to improve their lives. This is especially important for patients with intimate healthcare needs. For example, Coloplast, which offers ostomy products, has a You- Tube channel for consumers. It offers content showing viewers how to use certain products, but also to reassure them that they are part of a supportive, special community whose members understand their challenges.
Manufacturer Tip: Consider regions and communities served that may speak and read languages other than English. For example – serve Minnesota patients? Today there are more than 66,000 Hmong living in the state with the Twin Cities metro area home to the largest concentration of Hmong in the U.S.

Usability: Offer Convenience

  1. Make it intuitive and easy to assemble, understanding that the home care patient is not a trained, medical professional
  2. Offer use information directly on the product or packaging so the patient doesn’t have to find (and potentially lose) separate paper instructions
  3. Use icons and other easy-to-understand visual cues
  4. Consider whether to invest in online chatbots to give patients or family members instant answers
  5. Create a Frequently Asked Questions resource that includes who and how to contact for troubleshooting.

Manufacturer Tip: Include QR codes or website addresses empowering the patient to access more detailed information

Executive Briefing | March/April 2020

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