Home health care best practices


As a growing number of older Americans are making home healthcare increasingly attractive for drug store retailers, those in the industry say participating in this multifaceted market requires getting over some significant hurdles.

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“Over the past five to 10 years, the ‘path to purchase’ has changed from traditional destinations — home care providers — to a more diversified offering, including retail drug, mass, food, home improvement and e-commerce,” said James McGuiness, vice president of retail sales at Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare, which offers a wide range of durable medical equipment and other home care items.

As competition for shoppers’ home care dollars increases, drug store retailers will need to employ a strategy that will completely revamp the way they have traditionally approached this market, he said.

For example, McGuiness noted, retailers need to ensure they have what he calls “the right assortment,” optimizing the home care market’s multiple segments — mobility, bath safety, personal care and aids for daily living — to meet the basic needs to caregivers and patients.

When choosing which products to carry, retailers also need to consider the limitations that come with operating stores with limited floor space.

“DME can present a challenge as it is mostly large boxes that don’t typically turn as fast as other categories,” said Jeff Swain, VP of retail marketing at Compass Health Brands, which offers home care products under the Carex brand.

To overcome this space problem, Swain suggests that retailers feature smaller and faster-turning items in-store and combine that with a well-publicized online offering.

“If drug store retailers only offer limited product availability in-store and fail to direct the customer to their larger collection of online products, they risk having patrons be drawn to competitors with a larger product assortment,” he said.

However, those on the front lines warn that e-commerce is not for everyone.

“Competition is heavy online, and offering competitive pricing can be a challenge,” said David Svenson, director of home health care at Discount Drug Mart, which offers a wide range of home care products in its stores and is pondering whether to delve into e-commerce.

Focusing solely on brick-and-mortar, he said, allows retailers to offer personalized care, ensuring that patients get the right products — something an online store cannot do.

While such an approach means that a retailer cannot offer a complete mix of home care items, it also makes the business easier by limiting the need to deal with reimbursements from insurers.

“We advise pharmacy retailers to stick to the basics,” Compass’ Swain said. “This means starting with the cash business until they have grown as much as possible, and then expanding from there. Unless a pharmacy has a dedicated staff for reimbursements, we don’t recommend for retailers to play in that arena.”

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