Both seniors and caregivers are reactive purchasers of senior assistive technology, including PERS devices. The search for a solution typically begins only after an emergency occurs or when a senior is suddenly living alone after the death of a spouse. Fear-based marketing often plays into these scenarios, portraying a helpless senior unable to contact a loved one after falling. Though the original “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” commercial aired 30 years ago, the phrase remains ubiquitous and stigma-inducing among consumers considering purchasing a PERS device.
Messaging focused on senior empowerment highlights how the solution enhances seniors’ lifestyles or supports the ability to live at home for as long as possible, encouraging proactive buying and shifting the paradigm. Most industry players do not believe that fear-based messaging is the best approach to target seniors. Rather, messaging that empowers seniors and enables peace of mind for the caregivers is the winning approach.
As PERS devices evolve, the ability for a senior to focus on their own health provides an uplifting benefit that can potentially complement the safety-based drivers for PERS solutions and maybe a differentiator from competing solutions.
Business models in the PERS market fall into three buckets, – consumer pays, business-to-business, and third-party payor. Parks Associates research and industry interviews show that the consumer pays model, whether through the retail channel or otherwise, remains the most prominent of the three. However, the business-to-business and third-party payor models are critical to the evolution of the PERS market, particularly for forward-facing technology like home sensor-based systems.
PERS providers leverage several channels to reach consumers directly: retail (both online and in-store), direct-to-consumer (D2C), and residential security dealers. Almost 40% of consumers personally using a PERS device report purchasing the device online, which includes both retail and direct-to-consumer sales from manufacturers. Several leading PERS companies all sell direct-to-consumer via their website or over the phone. The retail channel has always fallen behind D2C in the PERS technology landscape.
Residential security companies have long offered traditional PERS solutions as part of their monitoring services. Some are now expanding their offerings to include senior safety-focused sensors and devices.
PERS companies also target relevant business communities for sales. Nursing homes, assisted living communities and managed care and rehabilitation facilities are all targets for companies looking at a B2B model rather than individual sales. Contracts with facilities may often be more lucrative for PERS companies as a result of multiple units at a time being needed for monitoring.
B2B sales include possibilities beyond emergency response. Senior care facilities seek a comprehensive remote health management solution, versus standalone emergency response. Facility-based use of emergency response solutions also allows for exposure of a company’s product to those involved in the care of the patient. Caregivers may refer to their experience in the facility when later seeking a solution for either themselves or another loved one.
Most state’s Medicare programs have the option for the insured to sign an “elderly waiver” in which facility-based care is forgone in favor of coverage of a traditional in-home PERS system.
The process to obtain insurance coverage for PERS solutions is more laborious on consumers, but makes it viable for companies to serve low-income seniors. Smaller, regional PERS providers are most likely to strategically seek third-party payor coverage. Texas-based Alert Response operates in five markets and reports that a third party pays for 80% of its clients. Eighty-five percent of the devices the company distributes are traditional PERS systems, while the remaining 15% are mPERS.
Currently, insurance waivers almost always cover traditional PERS only. The technology is reliable and the hardware reusable many times over, making traditional PERS the most logical and cost-effective choice.
As a result, traditional PERS solutions will continue to have a market, even as technology features improve and consumer preferences evolve. Traditional PERS devices and systems will continue to have a place in the market.
The rapidly aging population in the US combined with a future shortage of caregivers means that more people than ever will rely upon the assistance and technology provided through programs such as Medicare. Unless state and federal government insurance agencies approve newer technology for use within their waiver programs, traditional PERS devices will remain an integral part of the emergency response landscape in the years to come.
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