Medtrade's Randall: "Satisfied with Our Effort, Not with the Results"

Joe Randall, Medtrade show director, said of Medtrade Spring 2008 in Long Beach, Calif., "I'm satisfied with our effort. I'm not satisfied with the results, and we will continue to work with our partners to see that we pull out all the stops for Medtrade."

At press time, Randall -- who is also senior VP at Nielsen Business Media, the owner of Medtrade -- said final attendance figures for the show were not yet available. But based on the attendance information he had, Randall said, "It looks like we're off about 30 percent from last year."

Randall said he was satisfied with Nielsen's efforts because "We spent more money and gave more effort than on any show we've ever done in this industry."

In addition to trying to drive show attendance while the industry is concerned and distracted by competitive bidding and other policy issues, Medtrade management also had to deal with a new, if temporary, venue.

"We were in Long Beach this year, due to not being able to find dates in Las Vegas," Randall said. The Las Vegas Convention Center is under construction this spring, which caused Nielsen to seek a new 2008 venue. Long Beach's seashore location made for pretty scenery, and Randall said the city and venue "were a pleasure to work with." But Long Beach seems to have been a tough sell to HME providers accustomed to the high wattage of Vegas.

"We are now confirmed for Las Vegas in 2009 and 2010, and are working to secure future dates as well," Randall said.

As for overall industry reaction to this year's event, Randall said, "We received a lot of great feedback from our exhibit advisory board, our education committee and general meetings with both exhibitors and providers. In general, we're not ever happy with attendance going down, but given the general economy, competitive bidding, and location, we're OK with results. Not satisfied, but OK, and I believe that is the general consensus."

While overall attendance was down, the rehab segment in particular seemed scarce in Long Beach, with only a handful of exhibitors from the high-end assistive technology sector participating.

"Many times over the course of Medtrade, or any show for that matter, manufacturers choose to sit out a show, produce their own events or do other things," Randall said. "We believe that the only place to see as many customers in one place is Medtrade, so typically they return at some point. It is imperative for us as show organizers to work with them to help them achieve the return on investment that they are looking for. Even though some are not participating, we are still in contact, and are hopefully working toward solutions for the future."

As part of those future solutions, Nielsen distributed a "Contract with Homecare" document in Long Beach that said, in part, that Medtrade management proposes "to change the current state of our industry and our trade events."

The contract continued, "That is why in this era of evasion and posturing by our government as it relates to competitive bidding and vague promises by other 'solution providers' to build a better mousetrap, we offer instead a detailed, but simple, agenda for renewal of our commitment to the homecare industry: A written commitment with no fine print."

The contract adds that the proposed reforms are meant to "restore accountability and end this past cycle of negative thinking, as we leave Medtrade Spring 2008."

The 10 points in the contract are as follows:

1. Address current needs through more focused education, both face to face and online, with an emphasis on competitive bidding, reimbursement, accreditation, and diversifying revenue streams through retail opportunities.

2. Identify future opportunities and develop an educational focus to meet that need.

3. Financially and physically support industry efforts to curb competitive bidding. Participate in and help finance lobbying efforts to demonstrate the value of the home healthcare industry. Focus on industry unity through networking, grassroots efforts and visibility in Washington, D.C.

4. Explore ways to provide new revenue sources for HME providers through managed care, private pay and retail options.

5. Strengthen the shows by adding (an) enhanced accreditation central, a competitive bidding resource center, a retail redesign center and more.

6. Provide a better return on investment for exhibitors/marketers by a return to dedicated exhibit hours, especially at the beginning of each show day. Stage Medtrade in Atlanta and Medtrade Spring in Las Vegas.

7. Present opportunities for our constituents to provide products and services for a growing, aging population through education, enhanced buyer/seller opportunities, and research using the vast resources of The Nielsen Company.

8. Provide a new venue/event in Washington, D.C., in cooperation with AAHomecare, to include a legislative roundtable, an educational opportunity and a business forum for providers and manufacturers.

9. Provide the best service and return on investment for our exhibitors, attendees and association partners.

10. Listen to our constituents' wants and needs and react quickly and decisively.

Medtrade 2008 is scheduled for Oct. 28-30, with pre-event educational sessions on Oct. 27, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. For more information, go to www.medtrade.com.

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