Quantum’s Q-Controls flip many switches

Monday, March 31, 2003

EXETER, Pa. - Quantum Rehab is heralding its new power chair remote control system as “the next step” in mobility evolution – giving power chair users electronic control over nearly every aspect of their environment.

Quantum unveiled its new Q-Controls environmental control system in January, touting the unit’s seemingly limitless remote control capabilities – up to 2,500 different functions – giving it the ability to operate the gamut of common household appliances.

“Previous controls have been limited to just a few items, like a computer or TV,” said Quantum Vice President of Sales Scott Higley. “This is a control system designed to open up a person’s entire environment.”

The 6” x 5” box can be operated either with a standard joystick or specialty controls. A rechargeable battery provides up to two weeks of use at a time. Using infrared and radio wave technology, the five-pound device is designed for portability, allowing users to operate the control system from both chair and bedside.

The menu-driven system operates like a Palm Pilot, using an icon display that depicts each of the household items to be controlled.

“The icon system does for environmental controls what Windows and MacIntosh did for computers,” Higley said. “By giving you familiar pictures of each device, it is much easier for the user to understand the system’s functionality.”

At a retail price that ranges from $5,500 to $7,500 and higher, rehab providers are expressing reservations over funding for the unit. Higley says he understands provider funding concerns, but maintains confidence that consumer demand for the product will create a cash sale market.
“Demand is developing - as people look at power chairs, they don’t just see it as a medical device, but a lifestyle device,” Higley said. “It comes down to the advantage of having it versus not having it. This is a product that has high need value and people will want to spend cash for it.”

Moreover, Medicaid and some private insurance carriers may be willing to foot the bill, Higley said.

Quantum is offering to train those providers who want to sell the control system, because “a lot goes into the programming aspect of it,” Higley said.

So far though, providers seem to be in a review-only stage and are making no firm commitments. Mike Frantz, president of Toledo, Ohio-based Medi-Care Orthopedic offered a typical response.

“It’s new technology, we’re evaluating it, but haven’t made a decision on whether to carry it yet,” he said.

Despite an upbeat consumer demand forecast, the high cost is still an obstacle to market-wide usage, maintains Ann Kieschnik, rehab specialist with Houston-based Seating Profiles.

“The sad thing is that we have technology taking quantum leaps, but there are very few individuals out there who can access it,” she said. “Vendors are doing their research and are coming out with products clients think are great, but it’s always the providers who have to figure out how to fund them and have them used appropriately. I hate to sound so businesslike, but the bigger issue is pricing and funding agencies don’t find it medically necessary.” HME