Urologicals market offers a trifecta of benefits

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Monday, November 30, 2020

Urologicals are a surprisingly versatile market segment that marry rewarding work, cross-over sales and technological advancements. Not bad for a market that has a reputation for being a strictly commodity business in the HME industry, vendors say. 

John Anderson, CEO of Newport Beach, Calif.-based Cure Medical, is very upbeat about urologicals and the progress being made with respect to new products. 

“It is an extremely rewarding market – I have one customer who cried with joy because she was finally able to see a movie and not worry about her bladder,” he said. “The new products launched in the past few years are a super upgrade over earlier versions and conform to reimbursement realities.” 

In assessing urologic market demand, Anderson breaks it down into two distinct groups: “new starts” and existing users. 

“Typically, the new starts consult with a urologist to find out why they visit the restroom so frequently,” he explained. “This group has a condition of ‘retention,’ where the bladder only empties partially, so ‘it feels full again’ very soon. Intermittent catheters completely empty the bladder.” 

Existing users comprise a much larger group, in which HME providers need to offer products that meet their needs and offer a new benefit, such as ready-to-use, easy-to-carry, easy-to-open or are chemical-free, Anderson said. 

“I believe these end-users do not change just to change,” he said. “They change to upgrade the experience and it is up to the provider to determine how to upgrade that experience.” 

Urological products lend themselves to cross-over sales in various other categories, with power mobility being a primary candidate, Anderson said. 

“Almost anyone using power mobility will need urological products and with spinal cord injuries, patients will need to manage their bladders with intermittent catheters,” he said. “That is probably 10% to 20% of the market. The challenge from a marketing standpoint is the wide range of people who use intermittent self-catheterization, from pediatrics to geriatrics and including both genders.” 

Incontinence garments, skin care and other absorbent products are all suitable complementary products to catheters for promoting continence care and skin protection. As an initial step, Anderson recommends having a manufacturer’s representative come in and conduct an in-service session on new products and services. 

‘Intuitive’ new tech 

At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be any synergy between digital technology and incontinence garments. Yet Philadelphia-based Essity, maker of TENA incontinence and skin care products, has developed an “intuitive” notification system that anticipates when a garment needs changing. 

Currently in a pilot phase, the TENA SmartCare Change Indicator is designed to notify caregivers via smartphone when they should consider changing their patients’ absorbent garments. In doing so, the technology aims to help caregivers in home and long-term care settings to be proactive in preventing skin shear and potential wounds from forming. 

Axel Nordberg, Ph.D., global brand director of IQ Solutions for Essity, said the rationale for the technology came from a 2019 national survey of U.S. caregivers who expressed reservations about “invading the personal privacy of those that are managing incontinence” and that a majority of incontinence patients are “embarrassed about having to manage it, while three in four feel like they have lost their dignity as a result of the condition.” 

While not readily available until after the pilot program concludes, HME providers will be an integral part of the supply chain for SmartCare, said Jenny McGinley, Essity brand activation director for North America. 

“We realize HME providers are looked to for furnishing products that are innovative in delivering a high level of skilled care,” she said. “This product fits perfectly with the shift to home care, as well as the growth of connectivity infrastructure.” 

While applying digital technology to incontinence represents a new phase, the concept is already in use for the diabetes market to detect spikes and dips in blood glucose levels. Nordberg is bullish on the future of intuitive technology, predicting that it will gradually expand across various healthcare categories.