The Ups and Downs of Patient Weighing
Patient weighing has been a critical part of the medical assessment process since its beginning. Weight is used to determine how much medication to prescribe, whether a baby is growing at a proper rate, to assess cardiac patients for fluid retention and to determine if a patient is gaining weight to offset a wasting disease.
Today, patient weighing is more important than ever, as obesity has become a national problem. An estimated 65 percent of Americans are overweight and the rate of childhood obesity has doubled in the last decade. Obesity is now the second most common preventable cause of death, with over 300,000 deaths a year attributed to it. The trend shows no sign of abating and continues to be fueled by “super-sized” meals and more sedentary lifestyles.
The professional medical scale market is estimated to be in the $40- to $60-million dollar range on an annual basis. When combined with the retail and the fitness market, the number becomes much larger. The medical market number includes scales sold into the acute care market, as well as physician offices and clinics, nursing homes, rehabilitation and home health care.
Every medical facility has a scale, usually more than one. With obesity on the rise, many of these facilities are looking to upgrade their current equipment to better accommodate their patient population. Simply put, as the rate of obesity increases so does the need for better scales.
Scales are also very much like exam tables – they are very visible to the patient, and really help define a facility or a practice from a marketing perspective. As a sales representative with access to new technology and more aesthetically pleasing scales, it pays to identify outdated products that need to be replaced. After identifying those products, a solid working knowledge of scales will prepare you to make sales presentations that can significantly increase your business in this segment.
Different Types of Scales:
Balance Beam Scales – This remains the most used scale in the United States, but sales are declining as sales of digital scales grow. Most beam, or mechanical, scales can weigh up to 350 to 400 pounds, and offer a height-rod option and a handrail option. The most important features are usually the scale’s overall design and construction.
Digital Scales – The sales and use of digital scales continue to grow. There are a number of different configurations, from floor models to column models. They work by determining the force on a load cell, which is usually in the base, and converting that pressure to weight. They also make it possible to communicate with a computer and transmit electronic medical records.
Infant Scales – These are available in both mechanical and digital models, although digital infant scales far outsell mechanical infant scales. While digital scales are quieter and less likely to disturb an infant, the most compelling selling feature is that they are able to compensate for the infant’s movement.
Specialty Scales – These are offered in a wide range of categories, in both digital and mechanical versions. They include: - wheelchair scales, handrail scales, chair scales, bed and under-bed scales, sling scales
These scales tend to be more expensive and a demonstration is usually necessary. From a distributor sales representative’s perspective, it’s important to be able to identify opportunities to sell these scales and bring in the manufacturer to help demonstrate, close the sale and in-service the product. On higher-end scales, the manufacturer also brings the in-depth knowledge that is necessary to compete with direct selling companies. In the hospital market, where Scale-Tronix is selling on a direct basis, it is absolutely necessary for distributors and manufacturers to work together.
Digital vs. Mechanical:
The use of mechanical scales is still more widespread than digital scales. When the first electronic scales were introduced in the 1980s, they were unreliable and prone to breakdowns. Not only did physicians distrust them, distributor sales representatives opted not to sell them, fearing they would just be picking them up later to return them for repair or replacement.
The good news is, this is changing. Today, the majority of hospitals have converted to digital scales, and the rest of the market is following. The sales of digital scales are climbing quickly and that’s certainly no surprise with digital technology being so pervasive in our society, where everything but human beings are weighed by digital products.
In fact, today digital scales are outselling mechanical scales for the first time, according to HPIS data on distributor sales. HPIS reports that sales of digital scales have increased 61 percent since 2001, while sales of mechanical scales have decreased 12 percent.
That’s because most of today’s digital scales have significantly improved their performance over the first digital scales that were introduced in the 1980s. In addition, they can streamline a practitioner’s workload by providing a reliable weight in less time and with less hassle.
Technological advances also allow for more innovative features like larger platform sizes, improved performance and the ability to connect with an office’s electronic medical records or download to a PC.
For a distributor sales representative, many are choosing to sell digital scales for different reasons. Today all of the leading scale manufacturers offer reliable digital scales, so that is no longer an issue. Perhaps more important, digital scales have a higher average sales price than mechanical scales, meaning more sales volume and margin.