Reporters' Notebooks: Medtrade Spring 2006

Access Point Medical made a splashy debut, showing off a range of home medical equipment, from bath safety to walking aids to scooters, in its booth. The St. Louis-based company also has the ability to manufacture for other companies, who can then apply their own branding and labels. At a pre-show news conference, CEO Hans Stover vowed to release "120 products in 120 days" to give dealers "more options to remain in business."

Melissa Georgeoff, director of managed care and marketing for United Seating & Mobility headquartered in Earth City, Mo., was impressed by Sunrise Medical's new DeVilbiss IFill unit. "The reason," she says, "is because it is a great alternative to Invacare's Homefill unit. Managing the costs of ambulatory O2 patients remains a significant challenge for many dealers, and having an alternative... will benefit everyone. The competition will also yield more favorable pricing to dealers over the long term."

Invacare showed off a new "Quiet" Stability Lock, designed to eliminate the physical (and audible) jolt as a power chair transitions over obstacles. To emphasize the difference, Invacare had both a current model and a power chair equipped with the new system available for test-driving (and test-listening).

Motion Concepts showed off a pair of new positioning system prototypes (think prone positioning and footrests that independently move up and down and side to side), then looked for feedback via its brand-new Web site. Visitors to could click on a homepage "Medtrade Prototype Feedback" button and type their comments directly into an e-mail.

Permobil's booth included the power chair used to film a February episode of "ER." Actor James Woods played a doctor with ALS, and the episode followed the progression of the illness and its effects on Woods and the people in his life. When filming was done, Woods and other members of the cast signed the seat of the power chair, which will be auctioned for charity.

Larry Rice, VP of In Home Products based in Dallas, noted, "I have high expectations for the new Sunrise (Rhythm and Groove) power chairs, but that will be a wait-and-see. Other than that, reimbursement has slowed R&D."

Wayne Grau is the new director of rehab affairs for Pride Mobility Products/Quantum Rehab. Grau has spent his first weeks organizing meetings between HME suppliers and Congressional staffs to discuss the Hobson-Tanner bill (H.R. 3559) written to "assure access to DME under the Medicare program."

VGM Group once again invited dealers and industry friends to The Beach after the opening day of the show. The club's tropical decor was accented with hand-drawn signs protesting competitive bidding and cuts to oxygen funding. Among those on hand to meet and greet was company founder/CEO Van G. Miller.

Ranger All Season's booth included a scooter used by a customer to escape during the destruction of the World Trade Center Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001. The "9/11" scooter is still covered with dust, but helped multiple sclerosis patient Leigh Gilmore get away unharmed.

"Vegas is always an exciting place to go," said David Gould, owner and vice president of Gould's Discount Medical Center, Louisville, Ky. "It gives you a chance to get away and mix a little business with pleasure. I always enjoy the show because it is a much more intimate show and you are not as rushed to get through the whole show by the closing bell.

"We always attend any show with goals in mind — sometimes to pick up other product lines or to take time and discuss with a vendor or manufacturer a business plan and how they can help us meet our goals," Gould continued. "The vendors can spend more time with their customers. We did make some very good deals. Medtrade is always a place where excellent 'deals' can be made. We did get a chance to discuss with many people strategies on how to combat the devastating changes that are taking place (in the industry). Overall, I think it was a very good show, and I came away with some good ideas and some good strategies on how to combat the changes."

Leslie P. DeFelice, president and CEO, DeFeliceCare Inc., Wheeling, W.V., said, "As always, Medtrade provides unique opportunities to discuss with peers the state of the industry and the outlook for the future. I observed a renewed sense of purpose from these discussions."

DeFelice encouraged other suppliers to attend the AAHomecare Annual Legislative Fly-In on June 19-20. "Our issues originate in Washington," he said. "And you have to go to the source to solve them. If you believe that the home care industry is under siege, do something about it. As Winston Churchhill said in 1941, 'Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty; never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.' "

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