By Frank Long

Data from Physical Therapy Products’ 2016 facility-based equipment survey seems to hint that outpatient physical therapy clinics have battled their way to firmer footing after the shock waves of the 2008 financial collapse and years of winnowing reimbursement took their toll on bottom lines. Even as the shakeout of policies such as meaningful use, PQRS, and the oncoming shift toward value-based care payments foment some uncertainty, it seems that practices are feeling a bit more bold about ramping up operations with equipment purchases valued at $500 or more.

BUDGETING EXPANDS

Compared to past surveys, this year’s data shows a significant uptick in budgeting activity for facility-based equipment purchases. When this survey was conducted in 2012, respondents indicated 73.4% had budgeted for facility-based equipment. Clinics blasted well beyond that mark this year with 87% of respondents indicating they budgeted for facility-based equipment in 2016. Furthermore, in 2016 80% of respondents reported that they received the budgets they requested, compared to only 64.5% in 2012.

One characteristic of this year’s budgets is that even though most were for smaller amounts, they were granted with much greater frequency than those at the middle and higher ranges. For example, 45% of respondents reported budget amounts of $500 to $2,500 while 18% reported budgets of $2,500 to $5,000, and 12% reported budgets of $5,000 to $10,000. Notably, that figure ticked back up for the largest budgets, with 25% of respondents indicating they had a budget amount of $10,000 or more.

Product Resources

The following companies offer a range of products for capital expenditure purchases:

Aquatic Access

www.aquaticaccess.com

Aretech LLC

www.aretechllc.com

Bailey Manufacturing Company

www.baileymfg.com

Battle Creek Equipment

www.battlecreekequipment.com

Biodex Medical Systems Inc

www.biodex.com

BTE

www.btetech.com

Bioness Inc

www.bioness.com

Brookdale Medical Specialties Ltd

www.brookdalemedical.com

Chattanooga, a DJO Global Company

www.djoglobal.com/our-brands/chattanooga

GAITRite – CIR Systems Inc

www.gaitrite.com

Clarke Health Care Products

www.clarkehealthcare.com

Endless Pools

www.endlesspools.com

Gorbel Medical/SafeGait

www.safegait.com

Hausmann Industries Inc

www.hausmann.com

HydroWorx

www.hydroworx.com

JTECH Medical

www.jtechmedical.com

Micromedical Technologies Inc

www.micromedical.com

Pivotal Health Solutions

www.pivotalhealthsolutions.com

ProtoKinetics

www.protokinetics.com

Richmar

www.richmarweb.com

Solo-Step Inc

www.solostep.com

Sprint Aquatics

www.sprintaquatics.com

SwimEx Inc

www.swimex.com

SureHands Lift & Care Systems

www.surehands.com

Tekscan Inc

www.tekscan.com

Thought Technology

www.thoughttechnology.com

Tri W-G Inc

www.triwg.com

Vonco Medical

www.voncomed.com

WorkWell

www.workwell.com

POPULAR PURCHASES

So far in 2016, treatment tables and gait and balance equipment have had strong demand among facility-based equipment, with the survey showing both items in a dead heat: 18% of respondents purchased treatment tables, and 18% of respondents purchased gait and balance equipment. Software finished next, with 13% of respondents indicating they had purchased software as a facility-based equipment purchase in 2016. Rehab and fitness are also a popular acquisition this year, with 12% of respondents indicating purchases of this type of gear, followed by resistance equipment (10%), pain modalities (7%), safe patient handling (7%), beds/mattresses (9%), and other (6%).

Survey takers were asked to report what facility-based equipment purchases were still on their “wish list” for 2016. Among the responses, gait and balance equipment, again, led the way with 25% of respondents indicating that they wanted to purchase this type of equipment. Survey results showed 22% of respondents still had treatment tables on their wish list. Rehab and fitness equipment remained on the wish list for 15% of respondents, followed by software (9%), pain modalities (9%), resistance equipment (8%), other (8%), beds/mattresses (3%), and safe patient handling (1%).

GOOD INVESTMENTS

Clinic managers understand the importance of spending money wisely, particularly when that spending is associated with equipment that has a minimum $500 price tag. So what purchases were offering the best value? According to the majority of the year’s survey takers, facility-based equipment purchases for pain management products were those that offered the best return on investment (ROI). Behind pain management technologies, respondents chose resistance equipment—including therapy bands, resistance machines, and weight equipment—as the product category that offered the best ROI.

Treatment tables were chosen as the third best facility-based equipment purchase to provide desirable ROI, followed by the categories of conditioning equipment, rehab equipment, and software. Respondents also expressed a desire for equipment that serves a wide range of clients, is dependable and long lasting, and can be used to innovate. One survey taker’s response notes that the best ROI comes from facility-based equipment purchases “that allow an additional line of service.”

STILL AN APPETITE

Clinic managers and owners are making purchases for a number of reasons. Among the survey respondents, 48% reported they were making first-time purchases while 44% indicated that their purchases were for equipment upgrades. Purchases to replace equipment were made by 39% of respondents, and purchases made to add to existing inventory were made by 32% or respondents.

You can’t always get what you want, so when purchase plans in 2016 fall through, do you reset those plans for 2017? The survey asked whether facility-based equipment purchases not made in 2016 would be budgeted for in 2017. Nearly 48% survey takers responded “No” to this question. Others, however, indicated they expected to budget in 2017 for missed purchases in 2016 for two specific areas: software and gait and balance. An even 20% of survey respondents indicated they would recalibrate their 2017 budgets to include gait analysis systems, balance systems, and parallel bars if they did not make those purchases in 2016. That same scenario was true for software purchases, with 4% of respondents confirming that software products would be on their 2017 budgets if they did not get them in 2016.

INFORMATION SOURCE

Finally, this year’s survey sought to determine the sources that decision-makers are using to inform the purchase of facility-based equipment. Those who completed the survey indicated they most often turn to magazines/digital editions/media for product information, with 28% of respondents naming these as their top resources. That was followed by 27% of survey respondents who named websites as the source from which they get product information, while 15% of respondents reported trade shows as their primary place for information about PT products. Also on that list, 16% of respondents named “referrals” as their number one source of product information, with 12% used newsletters to find product information, and 2% of respondents reported “other.” PTP