Join ‘the movement’ at ISS

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Friday, January 4, 2019

PITTSBURGH – The theme for the 35th International Seating Symposium in Pittsburgh is “Bridging the gap between data and value.” “Five years ago, people looked at me like I had two heads when I talked about data and outcome measures in this field,” said Mark Schmeler, an associate professor and vice chairman of education and training in the Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology at the University of Pittsburgh, and director of ISS. “Now all you have to do is look at other other aspects of health care, and all you see is big data.”

Here’s what Schmeler and Meghan Wander, the conference manager for ISS, had to say about the March 18-22 event, and how it will challenge professionals to join “the movement.”

HME News: Tell me more about why you chose data and value as the theme this year.

Mark Schmeler: There’s a shift in health care from a fee-for-service to an accountable care model, where health payers and plans want to see what they’re getting for their money, which leads to outcomes. We wanted to promote that concept and give speakers and attendees the opportunity to share data they’ve collected in their businesses and practices. We also noticed a number of proposals for presentations coming in that factored that into their presentations. We’ll still have a lot of clinically based, practical presentations, but we wanted to see if we could promote a movement in that direction.

HME: Why has this field been a little slower on the uptake in this area?

Schmeler: Clinicians and providers are trained as clinicians and providers—they’re not statisticians or researchers. We come up with treatment plans, observe patients and see what works, and do that with the next patient. In a world of big data, everything is measured and you base decisions on that. Historically, we haven’t had good tools to use to get us that data.

HME: There has been a more recent trend in “connected” technology for power wheelchairs to produce additional data points.

Schmeler: I think you hit it on the spot—how do we get data from what we do in clinic and in the field, and from a patient’s day-to-day routine? How long is a chair being used; where is it going? When you’re arguing with an insurance company to get a new wheelchair for a patient, but it’s only three years old and hasn’t reached its reasonable use, you can point out the patient is 23, goes to college, works full time—he uses that chair a lot. With data, you can demonstrate more of a profile of the patient. The advent of the connected wheelchair is just scratching the surface.

HME: What’s new at ISS this year?

Megan Wander: The size of the exhibit hall is going to be our largest yet, about 127,000 square feet. Two years ago, in Nashville, it was 90,000 square feet. We expect 140 to 150 exhibitors. We’re also doing something new in the exhibit hall, carving out space specifically for accessible transportation.

Schmeler: This is part of our larger strategy, too. We've all been working in silos, but from an accountable care and managed care perspective, they want to be able to hand this all off to one organization or company, and they want to pay you $X to take care of them and make sure they don’t show up in the hospital. We want to use this an opportunity to get people talking to each other more.