Provide an incontinence service that puts patient dignity first
Serving clients with incontinence well requires professionalism, attention, discretion and understanding.
When a patient suffers from incontinence, he or she is actually suffering from two things; the negative impact their physical condition has on their lives, and the frustration and embarrassment they feel emotionally. Our youth-obsessed popular culture has done a great job of stigmatizing and mocking the condition of incontinence to the point that people with the condition don’t want to talk about it — at all.
Which is surprising from a statistical point of view, because the American population of people suffering from incontinence is significant. According to the National Association for Continence, at least 25 million American adults suffer from some form of urinary incontinence. Think about it: over 12% of the American population suffers from some form of incontinence.
In addition, women represent 75% of this population. A massive segment of the American population has a medical condition that they find too embarrassing to discuss.
If there was ever a time when HME suppliers could establish their businesses as trusted sources of effective products backed by knowledgeable service, and where patients could safely review and discuss those solutions, then they would create customer relationships that can last a lifetime. Here are some ways to achieve this:
PROVIDE COMPLETE SOLUTIONS
A supplier must provide a full range of solutions to become a one-stop-shop. Adult diapers, catheters, lubricants, cleaning products and underpads for chairs and mattresses are key items. And there are a wide variety of offerings in these categories to suit individual needs.
For example, a male catheter that works for one patient may not work for another, either due to style, material, physiology, comfort, size, or some other factor. (Again, we’re talking about very personal solutions.)
Be sure to stock enough items to cover all of your patients’ needs. Monitor your providers regularly for new options available, as the field of incontinence is constantly evolving.
PROVIDE COMMUNITY AWARENESS
A big problem for many patients with incontinence is a complete lack of awareness of their condition. Many patients with incontinence go long periods without being diagnosed. The average wait time between symptoms and being diagnosed with incontinence is over six years. Additionally, these patients are likely to self-treat their health issues, randomly buying various products and trying them out in hopes of finding a workable solution.
It all comes from a lack of awareness that your business can easily fix. Engage in various types of community outreach with key communities at risk of incontinence. Although most people with incontinence won’t line up for a free seminar, public service awareness campaigns using a combination of traditional and new media are a great way to reach these people to let them know that there is a helpful and unobtrusive service provider offering solutions to their problems.
EDUCATE YOUR REFERENCES
Although incontinence is both a funded business and a retail business, your referring physicians and other referral sources can generate significant business volume. The key is to educate them the same way you educate your patients. Many of your referral sources are not up to date on what is available.
This is an opportunity for you to host a continuing education or other educational event to demonstrate the range of solutions you offer and establish yourself as an expert resource that they can refer their patients to. Since your referring physicians need a variety of treatments for their patients with incontinence, but may not be aware of all the options available, they will appreciate having a product expert they can collaborate with to develop a complete solution for each of their patients.
OFFER DISCRETION, CONFIDENTIALITY AND DIGNITY
Once customers with incontinence are in your showroom, you need to make sure you have the right “infrastructure” to properly care for them. Remember that many people with incontinence feel embarrassed and even stigmatized by their situation, so you want to provide a service that can adequately address this.
In addition, dedicate a fully enclosed private space for them with a toilet and sink that will allow them not only to discuss solutions, but also to try them out.
This discretion does not extend only to consultation. If you are shipping or delivering incontinence items, consider packaging them in anonymous packaging or boxes.
If patients come to purchase items from your store, consider providing a private way for them to pick up larger incontinence items, such as diaper packs, discreetly and carefully. An easy way to offer this is to provide orders over the phone or online, then allow curbside or backdoor pickup at the back of the store.
FORM A TEAM OF RESPECTFUL PROS
Ensure that staff members who will be working with these patients are educated about incontinence and have a “bedside manner” that combines professionalism, maturity, respect and discretion, so patients feel free to discuss of their condition.
You must assign professional and well-trained staff members to the task of working with patients with incontinence. It is very difficult for patients to share all this private information with a recent high school graduate, for example.
Assigning competent staff to this task could also give the patient treatment ideas to discuss with their doctor. So the team members that a pharmacy dedicates to working with patients with incontinence should also have some kind of training in the normal function of the urinary tract and bowel, and what a function is. abnormal.
This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of HME Business’s DME Pharmacy.