The medical equipment industry is undergoing rapid change, and with rapid change comes new trends. In this article, the United Consumer Financial Services team highlights four trends and how medical equipment companies can adapt, strategize for growth, and better provide consumers with the necessary care and equipment.
AI Is Here to Stay
In 2023, artificial intelligence (AI) is the list-topping trend everyone is talking about. Innovations in AI have made significant contributions to business analytics, educational research, cybersecurity, and an ever-increasing number of other fields. The medical equipment industry is no exception.
Over the past two years, the industry has seen new and emerging AI and machine learning (ML) applications in equipment already on the market. In a recent study, Precedence Research found that AI in the healthcare market surpassed 15 billion dollars in 2022 and is forecasted to exceed 180 billion dollars by 2030. These projections suggest AI is here to stay, and with 178 new AI- and ML-enabled medical devices on the market as of October 2022, these projections are on their way to becoming a reality.
AI and ML are reorienting the medical equipment industry around “smart” equipment and multi-functional devices. For instance, a single AI- or ML-enabled smartphone application can perform functions that traditionally require multiple pieces of equipment. In addition, the sophistication of AI- and ML-enabled equipment promises to detect predispositions, monitor conditions, and analyze and report data more easily and accurately.
AI and ML are positioned to streamline the market even as they expand the industry. Expect smart devices to replace some traditional equipment while generating demand for newer and “smarter” equipment. As a result, medical equipment providers must adopt new smart product lines and consider how AI can augment existing equipment.
AI- and ML-enabled equipment presents unique challenges: privacy concerns, security issues, and regulatory requirements. Therefore, medical equipment providers would do well to assure consumers that they are adapting and innovating with AI while guaranteeing their consumer’s safety, security, and continuity of care.
DMEs Are in High Demand
Disrupting access to medical care, the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the value of remote technologies and at-home medical equipment. With many hospitals and healthcare facilities still understaffed or functioning at capacity, the demand for durable medical equipment (DME) shows no signs of subsiding. In 2021, the DME market peaked at 59.7 billion dollars; two years later, the 2023 market size is expected to exceed 63 billion dollars.
Contributing to this expanding market, the rising geriatric population and continued growth in chronic disease rates mean that medical equipment companies can expect their DME products to stay in high demand. In addition to traditional home care and mobility equipment, portable oxygen concentrators, home IV equipment, CPAP machines, and insulin pumps are a few of the products projected to see higher demands in 2023 — with the market for insulin pumps alone projected to grow from 4.57 billion dollars in 2022 to 13.17 billion dollars in 2029.
To meet the demand for access to more DME products, medical equipment companies must boost production and advertise to at-home markets to capitalize on market growth. Many DME products require internet access, and safety and data security concerns inhibit DME market growth. Medical equipment companies must increase production while anticipating and addressing consumer concerns to garner trust and ensure consumers receive the vital equipment they need.
Medicaid Coverage Will Be in Flux
The government extension of continuous enrollment for Medicaid elapsed on April 1, which means as many as 15 million Americans may be disenrolled from Medicaid in the coming months. During the COVID-19 pandemic, continuous enrollment for Medicaid provided millions of lower-income families with sustained healthcare coverage to offset their economic hardships due to COVID-19. However, now that this extension period has ended, many disenrolled Americans can expect gaps in coverage throughout the year as they wait to reenroll or find that they no longer meet eligibility requirements.
This means consumers of medical equipment will experience lapses in Medicaid’s joint state and federal healthcare coverage — including coverage of DME products and other medical equipment. These coverage lapses could pose significant short-term problems for medical equipment companies as some of their clientele temporarily lose coverage for the needed equipment. However, the scope and duration of this problem are difficult to forecast, so medical equipment companies should plan for fluctuations throughout 2023 and explore financing options to assist lower-income families (more on this in the next trend).
Consumer Financing Is a Must
Recent studies show that inflation has dramatically increased the cost of procuring new equipment for hospitals and healthcare facilities. As a result, individual consumers with far fewer resources and less access to suppliers feel even more keenly the effects of inflation on medical equipment costs. In addition, as supply chain issues continue to slow production and delivery, equipment costs will likely continue to climb. These increasing costs underscore the need for medical equipment companies to provide consumer financing options, which allow more consumers to pay for the life-comforting equipment they need affordably.
When medical equipment companies offer consumer financing options through firms like United Consumer Financial Services, consumers can quickly receive the necessary equipment without the burden of unmanageable up-front costs. The financing provides consumers with low, fixed monthly payments, enabling them to pay for mobility and medical equipment not covered by their insurance. In addition, consumer financing means fewer consumers will be denied access to the required equipment. With financing, stair lifts, scooters, portable oxygen concentrators, and CPAP machines, for example, can be purchased immediately with monthly payments over perhaps 18, 24, or 36 months.
Consumers are not the only ones to benefit from consumer financing. For example, medical equipment companies that offer consumer financing with firms like United Consumer Financial Services experience increased sales, expanded clientele, and ease of transactions.
The population of elderly citizens in the US—and across the globe—is increasing. The United Nations projects exponential growth in every segment of the aging population. There will soon be a higher percentage of elderly people on Earth than any other age group. The good news is that people are living longer. But they still need access to vital DME. This population growth forecasts an increased need for in-home medical equipment.
As the number of elderly increases, the medical equipment industry will follow suit. From 2018 to 2026, the global home medical equipment market is expected to grow from $26.6 million to $41.3 million. Businesses need to expand their product lines to keep up with the growing needs of aging patients. As the global population shifts and grows older and has medical equipment needs, there are businesses with the capacity and capabilities to grow to meet those needs.
Consumers want their medical equipment to travel with them with as much ease as possible. The popularity of wearable technology cannot be ignored—nor should it be. Fitness tech is commonplace, and wearable medical equipment is becoming the same.
This portable tech is becoming popular in the preventative healthcare and fitness field and the medical equipment sector. For example, customers using portable oxygen concentrators expect their equipment to keep up with their lifestyle. Carrying POCs that are sleek, lightweight, and wearable allows patients to continue their day-to-day without literally or figuratively being tied down by their oxygen needs. By providing your patients with wearable POCs, you’re able to give them a better quality of life.
Higher Rates of Respiratory Disease
A large segment of the DME market is for treating or managing respiratory disease. Over the last few decades, we have seen a steep uptick in the number of people affected by chronic respiratory diseases. As respiratory illness increases, so does the need for medical equipment to aid patients with these ailments. Portable oxygen is one of the most common DME products; it’s estimated that more than 1.5 million Americans use it to improve their quality of life. At one time, large clunky oxygen tanks that needed to be refilled were the only way a patient could receive needed supplemental oxygen. But today, there are many, many options for oxygen—and other respiratory aids—that give patients the ability to continue living life to the fullest. Access to portable oxygen allows patients to not only live with confidence that they can leave their homes safely, but it gives them the freedom to live truly. Without POCs, nebulizers, or CPAP machines, among other products, hundreds of thousands of Americans would be tethered to their home.
The high rate of respiratory illness is unfortunate. However, medical equipment companies are constantly innovating to create products that provide an excellent quality of life that was not possible twenty, ten, or even five years ago.
Online and Phone Shopping
The number of patients shopping online or speaking with a call center for medical equipment has increased greatly over the last few decades. The target demographic of people needing medical equipment might not be internet savvy. Still, those caring for them are utilizing the convenience of online and phone shopping to secure the equipment for the needs of their loved ones. In the past, medical equipment was sold exclusively through brick-and-mortar retail. While a physical location and face-to-face interaction is still very important, having an online store has become equally important.
Patients comparing prices, quality, and special medical equipment features want to do so from the comfort of their homes. That’s why it’s so important for medical equipment companies to have a functional and user-friendly website and skilled call center representatives for subsequent questions. It won’t be long before every generation is comfortable looking for medical equipment online. Making price checking and feature comparison easy will benefit companies that provide DME.
Face New Trends with a Team You Can Trust
Recent industry trends present medical equipment companies with a challenge — to adapt product lines while addressing consumer needs and concerns. However, they also present opportunities — to innovate, explore new markets, and engage a broader clientele. With the help of United Consumer Financial Services, medical equipment companies can navigate these trends while ensuring consumers receive the vital equipment they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford.
Contact your United Consumer Financial Services team today to learn more about consumer financing and how it can serve your clients and your business.