Home health care continues to be quite the buzz phrase in all areas of health care — from clinical to retail settings. So, who is, or will be, shopping your home health care department? Have you been reacting to your customers’ needs or anticipating them?


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Inside This Issue - Opinion

Drug chains should cater to care-at-home needs

November 19th, 2012
by Elizabeth Russell

Home health care continues to be quite the buzz phrase in all areas of health care — from clinical to retail settings. So, who is, or will be, shopping your home health care department? Have you been reacting to your customers’ needs or anticipating them?

The number of seniors in the United States is rising by 10,000 every day, and it will continue to do so throughout the next 20 years. There has never been a better time to build, expand or refresh your assortments of home health care products.

The desire to remain in one’s own home is prevalent among people over the age of 50, with higher levels of preference for remaining in their current home among the oldest age groups. This makes home care a best possible option for many seniors in the United States.

Those in need of home care have the option of hiring an agency with trained staff, hiring an aide privately or counting on a friend or family member to provide the care they need. While home health care can be less costly than clinical care, the costs of hiring an agency or caregiver can also be prohibitive. Coupled with the comfort of being cared for by a loved one and of aging in place, the draw of family caregiving grows.

Your home health care customers may range from people who want a stylish cane for walking support to shoppers looking for ostomy products. They also include family caregivers stocking up on such items as specialized wound care.

Nearly 66 million Americans are caregivers to family members or friends. These caregivers fulfill a host of roles every day — nurse, physical therapist, nutritionist, counselor and chef. In addition to caring for patients, help these shoppers care for themselves by adding to your home health care mix with products for the caregiver labeled as such, creating opportunities for add-on sales in the process.

Add insoles for those who are on their feet all day. Other caregivers may need sleep aids to help them get enough rest after long days of work. Caregivers who care for themselves can ultimately care more effectively for their loved ones.

A daily part of caregivers’ responsibilities includes ensuring that their care recipient takes his or her prescribed medication. Utilize pharmacy checkouts to promote your home health care departments and increase add-on sales. For example, merchandise pill organizers at pharmacy counters to encourage customers picking up medications to shop other daily living aids in your home health care department.

Not all home health care shoppers are caregivers — make your department easily accessible to those in need of mobility assistance. Arm staff with the resources they need to answer questions for shoppers new to the category, who, for instance, have never had to purchase respiratory therapy accessories before. Establishing your stores as “destinations” will create loyalty in this category and bring repeat purchases from those requiring long-term care.

Home health care shoppers, whether shopping for themselves or for a family member, may be looking for highly specialized products recommended by a doctor or other medical professional. Stock your e-commerce site with a complete selection of these specialized or large items that are not practical to stock in brick-and-mortar locations to provide a completely integrated shopping experience.

As more consumers use smartphones and scan QR codes, many may turn to mobile or online shopping. Yet another way to build loyalty among home health care shoppers is to create a “pathway” from the aisle to the Web via QR codes or URLs at shelf.

Keep an eye out for promotional or sponsorship opportunities on some of the many online communities for caregivers. Alternately, you could build in a discussion board, blog or informational page within your e-commerce site for caregivers’ support both to help them care for themselves and loved ones, and to keep them coming back to your website.

Pay attention to the demographics surrounding your stores and adjust as the population ages or changes. What are now small home health care departments could contribute major sales in the next five or 10 years. Anticipating the needs of your shoppers will prepare you to capture the most sales in this era that is redefining aging.

ELIZABETH RUSSELL is an industry writer and researcher with Hamacher Resource Group Inc., a research, marketing and category management firm that specializes in consumer health care at retail.

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