29th ISS brings consumers to the table

Friday, January 25, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – If the complex rehab industry really wants to improve access, one key group needs to be on its team, says Mark Schmeler: consumers.

“There hasn’t been a coming together of consumers, the industry and clinicians,” said Schmeler, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation and ISS course director. “Many industry people don’t know how to work with consumers; we have to bring them in as members of the group.”

The conference, held March 5-9 in Nashville, draws more than 1,500 seating and mobility professionals from around the world to see more than 100 vendor exhibitors and attend more than 100 sessions. 

To help build relationships with consumers, Schmeler is devoting the first day of the 29th International Seating Symposium (ISS) to them: they’ll be attending, exhibiting and speaking. 

“With things like the Affordable Care Act and healthcare reform, people with disabilities are not being considered—they’re becoming collateral damage,” said Schmeler. “The industry is trying very hard to advocate for them, but we need them to be there with us.”

The conference will feature two keynote speakers who are also consumers: Paul Tobin, CEO of United Spinal, and John Register, inspirational speaker and paralympic medalist.

“The patient population and industry are under assault,” said Tobin. “Everybody but the payer is suffering in this environment. If clinicians, consumers and suppliers can understand each other’s perspectives, they can help each other change policies.”

Schmeler hopes another event during the conference will also bring different complex rehab stakeholder groups together: a forum to discuss why power wheelchairs are breaking down more often—a finding UPitt researchers reported in July.

“Everyone points fingers in different directions when things like this come up,” said Schmeler. “These topics are touchy but they need to be discussed; it’s our responsibility to foster discussions that have to be had.”