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It's trending toward Sun City, USA.

NEW YORK -- The list of chain drug retailers offering home health care products continues to grow.

And for those that have been in the category for a while, the aging of the population and people's desire to take greater control of their own care have made the market for home health care items an integral part of their business.

By 2030 the number of people over age 65 is expected to be twice what it was in 2000; nearly 70 million Americans will be considered elderly. Surveys have shown that more than 80% of these people say they want to stay in their homes as they get older.

Consequently that will lead to a great demand for home health care, causing retailers across the country to start preparing for the coming onslaught.

At Kerr Drug, for example, home health care plays a key role in the Kerr Health Care Centers that the company operates in 15 of its 103 stores in North Carolina and South Carolina.

Many of the Kerr Health Care Centers have clinical pharmacists on staff to counsel patients on selected disease states, provide medication therapy management and perform a variety of health care screenings.

At Medic Drug in Greater Cleveland, home health care is a separate business unit that has been part of the company since 1980.

Besides operating Medic Home Health Care as a stand-alone business, the company offers a wide assortment of home care items in its 23 stores. In addition, all of the Medic stores employ home health care specialists either full-time or part-time, to assist customers with fittings and ensure that they get the proper items for their needs.

"We've done nothing but grow since we began this business," remarks Medic director of home health care Bill Collins. "We don't see that stopping anytime soon."

While lawmakers are considering changes in the way Medicare and Medicaid pay for home health items, which could negatively impact many retailers' businesses, Collins is confident that Medic will continue to prosper.

"We're one of the more well-known home health care companies in our area," he says. "We have a wide geographic reach, and it is very convenient for customers to come into our stores for these products."

The ability of such drug chains as Medic to offer patients multiple locations underscores one of the greatest advantages drug chains have in the home health care arena.

The only disadvantage, those in the industry note, is the limited floor space they can devote to the category.

For many drug chains it is often not feasible to stock too many home health care items. Many of the products in the category--such as wheelchairs, scooters, walkers and bath aids--tend to be large and bulky and take up too much shelf space.

Regardless of how much space a retailer can devote to the category, many make sure that they actively promote it and run frequent sales or specials.

Rite Aid Corp., for instance, recently offered its shoppers 25% off the entire line of Carex home health care products from Apex-Carex Healthcare.

The Internet has helped many retailers who have been restricted by the space limitations posed by home health care, providing the option of displaying products on a web site without having to actually stock them in their stores. When a customer orders an item it is shipped from the drug chain's distribution center or sent directly from the manufacturer.

Walgreen Co., for instance, employed this tactic recently when it offered a Schwinn Transport three-wheel mobility scooter on its web site for $899.

At Medic the space problem is easily solved by the fact that the company operates a separate home health care distribution center at its Mayfield Village, Ohio, headquarters.

The facility stocks everything from electric wheelchairs and beds to ostomy products and utensils for people with arthritis. And any product that Medic does not stock is obtained through outside vendors that work closely with the company.

Because many home health care items are covered by insurance, most chain retailers have either situated their product offerings adjacent to their pharmacies or actually made their home health care businesses a part of their pharmacy operation.

With more retailers getting into the home care business, such industry veterans as Medic's Collins say the melding of home health care and pharmacy is a must.

"You have to blend the two," he asserts. "That's the wall that has prevented a lot of other companies from being successful with home health care."
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Title Annotation:home health care products demand and marketing
Comment:It's trending toward Sun City, USA.(home health care products demand and marketing)
Author:Monks, Richard
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 10, 2005
Previous Article:Critical issues in community pharmacy.
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