Musculoskeletal injuries don’t discriminate. Youth league soccer players get shin splints, and their grandparents, on the other hand, might fall while walking. Indeed, it’s adult fitness fans and amateur athletes who drive much of the business of braces and splints, though the larger population of overweight and aging Americans needs products to assist them with basic daily living.
All of which puts Performance Health—a leading global manufacturer and supplier of nonprescription medical products used in the rehabilitation, recovery, and sports medicine industries—in a solid market. As the company’s general counsel, Mike Agliata explains the company fared well under the emphasis of noninvasive therapy in the Affordable Care Act. “When people can build strength and flexibility without going under the knife, it is a good option for them,” he says.
Medical products such as exercise bands, therapy putty, splints, and topical analgesics are important components of physical therapy treatment. While reimbursement schemes vary among payers, many insurance policies limit the number of appointments with a physical therapist, for example. The therapist’s job then is to help patients continue recuperation on their own. Many of the more than twenty thousand products sold by Performance Health enable that kind of self-managed rehabilitation continuity.
Even if the health system structure changes, a cultural shift among athletes and nonathletes alike already shows a growing appreciation for what the company’s over-the-counter products can do outside of professional direction. But does that also increase risk for product injury litigation for the company’s top lawyer?
“We don’t have many product claims,” says Agliata, the company’s first general counsel. “This is not by luck; we work hard to source high-quality products and provide clear instructions for proper use.”
“Consumers look to us to help them relieve pain, increase mobility, and improve physical performance.”
Those people who use the company’s products include a large population of baby boomers, a generation that adopted the idea of taking responsibility for one’s own health. This includes exercise of course, but the path to wellness has a few hazards. “Boomeritis,” a term coined a number of years ago, encompasses the types of injuries typical of the over-fifty crowd and applies equally to younger adults who engage in fitness activities to the point of minor injury. Problems occur most frequently in elbows (repetitive motion such as in tennis and golf), shoulders (rotator cuff injuries and irritation), ankles (Achilles tendon injuries), and knees (strains or tears to ligaments or cartilage). Workplace injuries involving back sprains are very common across all age groups. Each of these might be addressed with therapeutic exercises, as well as with products the company sells that include elbow sleeves, arm slings, ankle stirrups, knee braces, and back supports.
Perhaps because those injuries are so common—and consistent with the can-do spirit of fitness enthusiasts—the patients themselves increasingly seek out these products on their own. It’s not uncommon for individuals to investigate an ailment online, learn about devices, and make a purchase. For this reason, the company is expanding its retail business through Walmart, Walgreens, Target, and CVS, increasing online sales through Amazon, and growing its field and inside telesales, an omnichannel approach.
Performance Health was in a watershed moment last year, just as Agliata was brought on board. Formerly a division of Patterson Companies Inc., the organization was carved out of its parent by a leading private equity firm, Madison Dearborn Partners, and has rebranded from Patterson Medical to Performance Health. Because he worked in similar circumstances in a previous position, Agliata was well-suited for this transition period.
“I joined this company because it was an opportunity to create a legal department and work in an exciting industry with a strong management team and leading private equity partner,” Agliata says. He also oversaw the acquisition of a similar company, another part of how the company is expanding its reach.
Agliata was also intrigued by the task of connecting with new customers in new channels. “We really have to understand the needs of customers and help them solve a problem,” he says. “Consumers look to us to help them relieve pain, increase mobility, and improve physical performance wherever and whenever they choose. The physical therapists, chiropractors, massage professionals, and other clinicians with whom we do business need us to provide cost-effective products and business solutions that help them manage their businesses and provide treatment to their patients.”
While acknowledging the uncertain environment of healthcare under the new administration in Washington, DC, Agliata remains confident of the utility that Performance Health products offer. “Healthcare professionals are our primary customers. However, we are finding more and more that the patient is becoming our direct customer,” he says. “It’s the reason we are spending a lot more time, money, and energy on expanding our retail and e-commerce business. We want to be everywhere our customers need us to be.”