Emerging Market Trend: Bariatrics

Published in Complex Rehab on August 16, 2022

Ted Metcalf

By Ted Metcalf, Regional Account Manager, VGM & Associates

The DME market continues to see significant growth in just about every category. Add the availability of new technologies and telehealth services driving efficiencies, and you have a landscape ripe with opportunity for providers. The key is not only to diversify, but to do it with better outcomes in mind.

In the past, we often viewed products and services as independent of one another. However, in recent years, the approach has been to identify trends and understand how certain products and patients need to support one another. The goal under this approach is to solve as many of the patient’s needs as possible, which is better for business and patient outcomes alike. And one area of patient care lends itself particularly well to this strategy: bariatrics.

Bariatrics in Post-Acute Care

There are two main reasons bariatrics is an emerging market trend in DME. The first is that there is a real and present need for bariatric patient care. Recently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have labeled the disease state of obesity as the fastest growing cause of preventable death in the nation. The second is that obesity can be a contributing factor in other conditions. These include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and musculoskeletal disorders. In fact, the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society (WOCN) has labeled obesity as the most serious disease state affecting adults and children. With obesity steadily on the rise, the strategy will be to continue to identify needs, increase awareness, and offer product solutions that provide safe, effective care to this special patient group.

Wound Care: Critical Care Needs of the Bariatric Patient

The WOCN has shown that wound and skin care are common concerns with bariatric patients. For example, we have seen skin integrity issues manifest as pressure ulcers, bacterial/yeast infections, dermatitis, and lower leg ulcers. Skin-fold management is another area of concern to assist the bariatric patient in preventing some of these wound and skin care risks.

Skin Care

Your patients are already looking for skin care products and services. Adding them to your offerings goes a long way toward driving better outcomes for this patient population. Moisturizers and absorbing fabric and pads are effective for skin and skin-fold management. Antimicrobial and silver-infused clothing/pads can be used for moisture control.

Open Wounds and Healing

Two other major concerns are open skin wounds and the overall wound healing process. Poor oxygen and poor nutrition can exacerbate the wounds and prolong the wound healing process. With skin-on-skin present, the issue is the harboring of moisture, which invites bacteria and fungus. Odor control is thus a concern for bariatric patients, and an effective overall wound care program focused on skin care is paramount.

Venous Diseases

Many bariatric patients suffer from low circulation in the lower extremities and suffer from certain venous diseases. When the lymphatic system has been compromised, we typically see issues around the knee to foot area, where it can be difficult to treat ulcers. There are many products, including compression garments, that can alleviate and treat these issues, and adding them to your offerings is great way to support your bariatric patients.

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This article was originally featured in the VGM Playbook: Emerging Opportunities in DMEPOS. To read the full article and more like this, download your copy of the playbook today!

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