Avenue Medical drives seating biz

Friday, February 28, 2003

DOVER, Del. - Determining the best mobility and positioning products for clients of Dover-based Avenue Medical once involved a lot of guess work and lugging around of heavy equipment for in-house evaluations. A process that relied a great deal on trial and error.

But after finishing construction of a new, 2,000 square-foot facility in January, the 32-year-old home medical equipment supplier now can offer seating clinics with licensed therapists on-hand to pinpoint the ideal equipment for a particular client’s needs.

“This raises the bar for getting people the right equipment,” said Adam Samuel, owner and president of Avenue Medical. “We want to continue to get the reputation that we are a quality provider and making the technology out there accessible.”

By offering seating clinics, the 10-employee company can now bring to its clients state-of-the-art equipment and licensed therapists to address such key factors as skeletal alignment, respiratory capacity, skin integrity and pressure relief requirements, environment of application, and overall client function capabilities.

Avenue Medical currently outsources their PT, OT, ATP, and RE, depending on the clients’ insurance, to assist in assessing the evaluations. Samuel is also a CRTS and assists in the fittings.

Many mobility and positioning suppliers offer seating clinics to their clients However, most evaluations are either coordinated with area hospitals, and rehab clinics or taken to the clients’ home. An on-site facility, such as Avenue Medical’s, is considered by many industry suppliers as unique.

David Kruse, who sold Wheelchair Works in Milwaukie, Ore., in 2000 and has 26 years in industry, said most of his clients traveled to attend seating clinics in the Portland area. But, he said, when serving a rural population, like Dover, clients expect specialty suppliers to make available high-end equipment and by traveling long distances to get it, allows room for error.

“Decisions are made in haste,” Kruse said of attending long distant clinics. “Sometimes a lot of mistakes are made. There is a limited amount of time and it is usually (the therapists) first time seeing that person. There is really not a lot of background to work with.”

Ann Kieschnik, owner of Seating Profiles in Houston, Texas, agrees and while they continue to do in-house evaluations, they prefer to hold clinics at either their location or area hospitals and rehab facilities to ensure their service and expertise.

“You try to take the kitchen sink when you can,” Kieschnik said about in-house evaluations. “But when (clients) come to you, you have your entire inventory.”

Prior to Avenue Medical’s addition, the nearest seating clinic for clients in the Dover area, was almost an hour drive north to New Castle. Otherwise, clients had to rely on in-house evaluations or try their luck with suppliers over the Internet, which, Samuel said, has caused many to end up with equipment that breaks down or causes pain because it just doesn’t fit their individual needs.

“There really wasn’t anything local for our clients,” he said. “Our clients were getting equipment (over the Internet) that just wasn’t correct. These Internet providers just have the basic information. They never see the client so the products don’t fit the needs.

“We don’t mind the competition, if the competition is qualified,” Samuel added.

Avenue Medical’s process, Samuel said, will still involve an in-house evaluation in order to see first hand the client’s surroundings, such as space, surfaces, and terrain. It also will serve as a first look at the client’s physical needs and becoming familiar with such issues as weight, height, and independent mobility.

“Before, we would bring everything to the client,” said Samuel. “And most of the time we would not bring the right equipment for that client. You couldn’t always bring that much (equipment) with you.”

After the in-house evaluation is complete, an appointment is then scheduled for the client to attend a seating clinic, he said, where a variety of mobility and positioning equipment is available for testing and demonstrations. This, Samuel said, is where the licensed therapists assist in matching clients with the ideal equipment.

While Deleware does not require suppliers of mobility and positioning equipment to have certified therapists on staff, First State and Diamond State HMOs, and the traditional Medicaid may not reimburse billing unless the evaluation was conducted by at least a certified ATS or PTS.

Along with the seating clinic, Avenue Medical will also introduce new environmental controls for their power wheelchairs. By using “sip and puff” or fiber optic technology, voice and switch activated controls will allow a client to activate additional power for different types of terrain. HME