Moving the HME Industry Forward


The Evolution of Caretailing

July 10, 2017

ATLANTA – Two years ago, the folks at VGM came up with a new word—caretailing. As a combination of care and retail, the definition (see info box) attempted to summarize a growing trend in the largely staid world of HME. The trend has indeed grown, with various providers successfully transforming their business (see Here and Here) without the traditional tether of third party payers.

When Medtrade takes place Oct 23-25, 2017, caretailing will again be prominently featured (click here to register). Medtrade Monday sat down with Maria Claire Markusen, director of development, VGM Retail, to get a sense of where caretailing is headed.

Greg Thompson, editor, Medtrade Monday: Two years after coining caretail, how has it evolved?
Maria Claire Markusen (pictured), director of development, VGM Retail: The primary focus in the past was either trying to create beautiful stores and environments to drive traffic, or adding cash product because third party customers asked for the product. Two extremes—haphazard stores and beautiful stores.

Thompson: What’s the best approach?
Markusen: While the physical space is still an important factor of success, the new normal of caretailing is a holistic approach. The focus now is on incremental sales, health and wellness, the right product and marketing. We are moving beyond early adaptor status to a fuller scale implementation. Although providers are desperate for the how-to tools and information they need to implement, higher numbers are testing and trying. 

We’ve seen an increase in cash-only model stores in an effort to avoid regulation. Providers are finally responding to the demands of consumers because the calls are louder, but also because of the market pressure of competitive bidding, pricing, changes in third party reimbursement, and the cultural shift of consumer healthcare responsibility. Caretailing is important because of its nuance. It’s about building revenue and filling the gap of reimbursement. But implementing in a way that matches the mission of our providers—the health, wellness and recovery of our customers/patients—the improving lives part.

Thompson: Has caretailing become more important? Less important? No change?
Markusen: More important. See the above answer about the changing marketplace. To survive market pressure and meet consumer demand, access to product is key. In addition to the market changes above, online access to product and the threat of clawbacks to hospitals is a factor as well.

Healthcare providers have an incentive to make sure patients recover. Our products are a part of that process. And with on-line access to product, customers have lots of choices. But consumers carry a higher burden of cost so cash is emerging as a more powerful force. So a caretail mindset is a key market differentiator for our members; it gets the customer to come to the store for service and experience instead of purchasing on-line. We can educate customers, add new products consistently, and provide service to keep the customer on a long term basis.

Thompson: Why should HME providers make the effort to come to Medtrade and see caretail products?  
Markusen: Finding the right products that customers want is key to implementing a caretailing model. Touching, feeling, and seeing product is always better. Medtrade is about more than product too.  It’s about meeting the experts, learning how to implement, hearing the buzz around caretailing, and understanding the changing marketplace.  Because the marketplace is changing so quickly, it’s more important than ever to soak up the caretail experience driven by Medtrade.

Thompson: What is the biggest misconception (if one exists) about succeeding in caretailing?
Markusen: The cost to get started. Caretailing doesn’t necessarily need to be a large scale project. Success is in both cash-only stores to adding a few categories related to an existing customer base.

Call for Entries: The Biannual Innovative HME Retail Product Awards
ATLANTA – Know of a great retail product? If so, call up the manufacturers and urge them to enter the biannual Innovative HME Retail Product Awards, a tradition at Medtrade (sponsored by HomeCare Magazine) that honors HME products that are suited for retail/caretail. The purpose of the competition (moderated by Jim Greatorex, pictured) is to promote and recognize products that contribute to providers’ bottom lines though cash sales. All product entries must be manufactured by companies that are exhibiting at Medtrade. See list of exhibiting companies at

Products will be reviewed by judges and the top eight will advance to an onsite judging round. The top eight products will be presented in a Medtrade conference session, The Best New Retail/Cash Opportunities, time TBD. Voting will take place at the session to determine the top three winners.

After the on-site Medtrade audience votes, organizers will determine the top three vote getters for the Innovative HME Retail Product Awards. Contact Kevin Gaffney, group show director, at (770) 291-5446 or if you have questions about the Innovative HME Retail Product Awards.