Wound care success starts with the skin

    By John Andrews

    PHILADELPHIA, July 27, 2015

    The wound care market encompasses a wide range of conditions, products, services and healthcare settings, so it has sufficient versatility for the home medical equipment provider to maintain a healthy business. In fact, it may have the widest cross-marketing potential for retail sales to the public and professionals, market specialists say.

    Comprised of skin care, incontinence, wound management and support surfaces, the wound care category covers patients with various chronic conditions and serves their skin needs ranging from prevention to clinical treatments. A strong retail operation can showcase a wealth of products and, through effective merchandising, build a comprehensive wound care business that offers various skin care products, incontinence garments, mattresses, therapeutic dressings and emollients, as well as more sophisticated clinical products for professionals, such as negative pressure wound therapy. NPWT is a technology that is expected to reach $4 billion in sales by 2018.

    It starts with skin care, which has applications for wound care and beyond.

    “Lotions and cleansers are ideal options for retail sales as they are cash items,” said Jessica Lan, senior product manager of adjacent products for Essity Hygiene and Health-North America in Philadelphia. “Personal adult wipes can be linked to incontinence and skin care as they provide a convenient way for both caregivers and patients to cleanse after an incontinence episode. We find that wipes are largely underutilized in home care, possibly because people aren’t aware that cleansing is necessary after each urinary incontinence occurrence. Proper cleansing helps prevent skin irritation and infections, especially urinary tract infections.”

    No-rinse cleansers are also relevant products to connect to incontinence and skin care, as they are typically underutilized for proper perineal cleansing, Lan said. When treating incontinence, she said some products are more effective when used in partnership with others.

    “For example, since incontinence often creates associated skincare conditions, grouping cleansers and lotions with absorbent products such as briefs helps caregivers better understand how these conditions are related, be better informed to care for them simultaneously and access the complete portfolio of products recommended for their treatment,” Lan said. “HME retailers can help customers understand how these products can be used together, which can also drive sales.”

    Standing out

    There are various strategies an HME retailer can use to stand apart from the national chains for wound care products. One of the prime differentiators is carrying unique product brands and superior selection, Lan said.

    “Focus on brands that provide a higher level of care and functionality,” she said. “Additionally, by carrying both non-reimbursable and reimbursable products, as well as products that address conditions associated with a core health issue, HME retailers can compete more effectively with big box stores and pharmacies.”

    Serving the role of “trusted adviser” is another major aspect of being a complete wound care provider. Extensive knowledge in product lines, technology and clinical aspects of skin conditions and wound treatment validate credibility in the field.

    “This is especially important as shoppers are increasing buying products for loved ones and may not be knowledgeable of proper products and care,” Lan said. “Family caregivers seek guidance on which products are best suited, and HMEs are in a unique position to provide that advice.”

    Advanced wound care

    Establishing strong ties to the clinical community is a necessity for referrals and product sales on more advanced wound care issues. Ron Chappius, senior marketing manager for advanced wound care at Charlotte, N.C.-based BSN Medical, recommends persistent provider outreach to wound clinics, physician offices (particularly specialists like podiatrists), acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and home health agencies.

    Awareness and demand for wound-healing products has been increasing along with the aging population and sustained high levels of diabetes, Chappius said. Over the years, as wound care has evolved from traditional care into advanced wound care technology, some of the key new generation products include advanced wound care films, bio-active wound care skin substitutes and therapy devices such as negative pressure vacuum devices, electrical stimulation, and electromagnetic and ultrasound devices.

    The advanced wound care product lines are aimed at professional caregivers in the acute and post-acute sectors for the treatment of chronic pressure ulcers and wounds. Thorough familiarity with these products enables HME providers to understand clinicians’ needs, as well as empathize with the patient experience, Chappius said.

    “There is a range of advanced wound care products that appeal to clinicians who want to heal their patients’ wounds,” he said. “Treating chronic or hard-to-heal wounds has evolved greatly over the past 10 to 15 years, and today it is best carried out by multidisciplinary teams centered on the patient’s specific situation and needs.”