Mobility Management's

Wheelchair Survey

What Chairs You’re Selling Now, What You’ll Sell in 2011 & the Issues That Concern You Most

Mobility Management Wheelchair SurveyCompetitive bidding’s round 1 rebid, the impending elimination of the first-month purchase option for standard power chairs, a global economy still struggling…2010 was not a year for wheelchair providers who are faint of heart.

We expected the results of our 2010 Wheelchair Survey to reflect trepidation, frustration and significantly cautious attitudes among the providers who participated. And while there was some of that — as usual for the industry, there’s no shortage of policy and funding issues that need attention — there was also noteworthy optimism for the year ahead. Respondents fully expect to be challenged. But they also indicated a determination to push ahead nonetheless.

Take a look at what you and your peers said. And as always, our thanks to everyone who made time in their day to answer our questions. Your responses were fascinating…and inspiring.

Who Took the MM Wheelchair Survey?

Invitations to take the survey were e-mailed to Mobility Management subscribers in August, with surveys completed by early September. The vast majority of respondents work for businesses that employ assistive technology professionals (ATPs) — and have been serving clients for a decade or more.

How many ATPs currently work in your business?

None 25.7%
1-3 61.9%
4-6 8.6%
7-10 1%

How many years has your business been in operation?

2 years or less 1%
3-5 years 3.8%
6-10 years 13.3%
More than 10 years 81.9%

The following statement best describes our business.

We specialize in consumer mobility. 16.2%
We specialize in complex rehab. 22.9%
We serve equal numbers of consumer mobility & complex rehab clients. 19%
We specialize in rental chairs & traditional DME. 18.1%
We serve equal numbers of consumer mobility, complex rehab, rental chair and adaptive automotive clients. 21%

What sorts of wheelchair service/repair do you offer?

We service wheelchairs purchased elsewhere. 58.7%
We service only products we sell. 38.5%

What Are You Selling Now? What Will You Sell Next Year?

As you’d expect from Mobility Management readers, respondents indicated they sell many types of wheelchairs, with standard/lightweight manual chairs being the most common product niche offered. When asked to compare their current product offerings with the categories they expect to offer next year, respondents said they expected little change. The biggest swing came in the bariatric niche — and even that showed only a 2.8% difference from 2010 to 2011.

For all chair categories we asked about, respondents most often said they expected to sell more or the same amount of equipment next year vs. this year.

What product categories are you selling in 2010?

Manual chairs, standard/lightweight/transport 94.3%
Bariatric, power or manual 85.7%
Power chairs, consumer 85.7%
Positioning/tilt chairs 72.4%
Power chairs, complex rehab 71.4%
Ultralightweight/sports chairs 71.4%
Pediatric, power or manual 70.5%

What product categories will you sell in 2011?

Manual chairs, standard/lightweight/transport 93.3%
Power chairs, consumer 83.8%
Bariatric, power or manual 82.9%
Positioning/tilt chairs 75.2%
Ultralightweight/sports chairs 72.4%
Pediatric, power or manual 72.4%
Power chairs, complex rehab 70.5%

Will you provide more or less of these products in 2011, compared to 2010?

Consumer power chairs

More 33.3%
Less 28.4%
Same amount 27.5%

Complex rehab power chairs

More 40.4%
Same amount 28.3%
Less 10.1%

Manual chairs, standard/lightweight/transport

Same amount 49%
More 37%
Less 12%

Positioning/tilt chairs

More 37.6%
Same amount 35.6%
Less 11.9%

Ultralightweight/sports

Same amount 35.1%
More 28.9%
Less 17.5%

Bariatric

Same amount 43.4%
More 38.4%
Less 9.1%

Pediatric

Same amount 38.4%
More 34.3%
Less 6.1%

Which Factors Are Most Important When Choosing Product to Provide?

In the decision-making process, which factors are most important to providers? We asked respondents to rank each factor on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being “most important.” The factor with the lowest overall score, therefore, was deemed “most important” by participants. We divided the factors into two lists: one focusing on the product, the other focusing on the purchasing process itself.

Which of these factors is most important when deciding which wheelchairs to provide?

Durability of chair Score: 2.18
Ease of repairing/servicing chair Score: 3.51
Adjustability/growability Score: 3.53
Size availability Score: 3.8
Compatibility with aftermarket parts Score: 4.27
Innovative or unique features & benefits Score: 4.27
Transportability Score: 5.01

Which of these factors is most important when deciding which wheelchairs to provide?

Price of wheelchair Score: 2.21
Willingness of manufacturer to work with provider on purchasing terms, price, etc. Score: 2.84
Wide range of product Score: 3.07
Speed of delivery Score: 3.18
Ease of ordering/delivery Score: 3.26

Which Issues Have You Most Concerned?

We listed an array of current mobility/complex rehab policy and funding issues and asked how important they are to respondents’ businesses. Respondents scored each topic on a scale of 1 (Not at all important) to 7 (Extremely important).

“Extremely important” ended up being the most common response for every topic listed. The upcoming elimination of the first-month purchase option for standard power chairs had the highest score — 5.88 out of a possible 7 — and was stated to be “extremely important” by 61.8% of respondents. Establishing a separate benefit category for complex rehab was rated “extremely important” by 53.5% of respondents, the secondhighest percentage.

Rate the importance of the following industry issues on your own business.

“First-month purchase” elimination Score: 5.88
Medicaid funding cuts Score: 5.63
Competitive bidding for all DME Score: 5.43
Benefit category for complex rehab Score: 5.35
Managed care contract requirements/pricing Score: 5.15
Competitive bidding for Group 2 consumer power Score: 5.09
Recovery Audit Contractor Audits Score: 4.98
PECOS Score: 4.83
Competitive bidding for Group 2 “complex” power Score: 4.73

How will the elimination of the first-month purchase option for standard power chairs provided to Medicare beneficiaries impact your business? Select all that apply.

We will increase business with other funding sources. 40.8%
We will reduce the volume of standard chairs we provide to Medicare beneficiaries. 38.8%
We will expand product offerings in other areas. 26.2%
This is an opportunity for us to increase business in that niche. 19.4%
We will no longer provide those products to Medicare beneficiaries. 10.7%
We do not expect an impact on our business. 5.8%

Working with Medicare

The long arm of Medicare impacts your business every day, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has no shortage of policies to regulate providers’ actions. But we turned the tables and asked how well Medicare is working for providers. We also asked respondents to describe how well they think Congress understands the daily challenges of working in this industry. The answers indicated that providers perceive a huge gap between the industry and both Medicare and Congress: “Completely disagree” was by far the most common response by survey participants.

What is your current business relationship with Medicare when providing wheelchairs?

Medicare is a substantial payor —
25-50% of our funding.
45.2%
Medicare is our primary payor —
51% of our funding.
32.7%
Medicare is one of many payors —
10-24% of our funding.
14.4%
Medicare provides less than 10% of our funding. 1.9%

If you currently provide wheelchairs to Medicare beneficiaries, which statement best describes your hope for the future?

I would like to maintain my current level of Medicare business. 32.4%
I would like to work less with Medicare and more with other payors. 32.4%
I would like to work with Medicare more. 22.5%
I hope to stop working with Medicare. 6.9%

For each statement, indicate whether you agree or disagree using a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 meaning “completely disagree” and 7 meaning “completely agree.”

Medicare understands the business challenges facing complex rehab suppliers.

Completely disagree 72.4%

Medicare understands the business challenges facing DME suppliers.

Completely disagree 70.3%

Congress understands the business challenges facing complex rehab suppliers.

Completely disagree 71.7%

Congress understands the business challenges facing DME suppliers.

Completely disagree 68.3%

Medicare does a good job of educating all stakeholders of its policies and changes.

Completely disagree 60.4%

Medicare communicates news to suppliers, clinicians, referral sources and consumers in a timely and efficient manner.

Completely disagree 45.5%

Accreditation requirements are working well to exclude unqualified, fraudulent and abusive DME suppliers and complex rehab providers.

Completely disagree 29.7%

Working with Physicians & Referral Sources

The results were somewhat more encouraging when providers were asked about their relationships with physicians and other referral sources. There’s definitely room to grow when it comes to physician understanding of how wheelchair provision works, respondents said, but overall, survey participants indicated that physicians had a better grasp of the importance of this assistive technology…and the importance of solid relationships between prescribers and providers. For this question, the highest possible score is 7, which would indicate complete agreement with the statement. A score of 1 would mean complete disagreement.

For each statement, indicate whether you agree or disagree using a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 meaning “completely disagree” and 7 meaning “completely agree.”

Physicians/referral sources understand the business challenges facing DME suppliers.

Completely disagree 44.1%
Overall score 2.01

Physicians/referral sources believe DME suppliers and complex rehab providers are an important part of the healthcare team.

Overall score 3.32

Physicians/referral sources understand how DME/complex rehab equipment provision works.

Overall score 2.23

Physicians/referral sources are becoming more knowledgeable about how equipment provision works.

Overall score 3.01

Medicare does a good job of communicating with physicians/ referral sources about DME/complex rehab policies and changes.

Completely disagree 66.3%
Overall score 1.77

Much/most of the burden for keeping physicians/referral sources informed about Medicare/Medicaid policies currently falls on the supplier/provider.

Completely agree 76%
Overall score
6.29

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Mobility Management.

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