Reporters notebook: Providers address key safety issues

Monday, March 26, 2012

A recent online discussion about a wheelchair user's accident raised the question: who should be responsible for patient safety? The doctor, manufacturer, provider or patient--or a combination of any and all of the above? Here's what providers told HME News they were doing to ensure their patients' safety. Side note: Safety items can also present an opportunity for mobility providers to offer more cash products.

In the home

When doing a home safety assessment, provider Scott Soderquist keeps an eye out for potential hazards. "We look for electric cords, throw rugs and things like that," said Soderquist, president of Rehab Equipment Associates in Manchester, N.H. "If there's an issue with thresholds or something else that requires modification, we address it with them." Certain modifications, like bath safety items or ramps, are things patients might not think of until arriving home with a new wheelchair, he said. 

On the road

The belts used to position users in wheelchairs are not designed to act like seatbelts in a motor vehicle, says Michelle McMahon, president of Cheyenne, Wy.-based Frontier Access & Mobility. She encourages her patients to consider products that are crash tested and designed to safely strap a wheelchair into a vehicle. "There's still a tremendous amount of education that needs to happen with that," said McMahon. 

Out and about

Items like reflectors, lights and flags are meant to increase a wheelchair user's visibility when they're out on sidewalks and crosswalks. "A lot of people don't know it's available until we offer it to them," said Mort Copeland, COO of Charlotte, N.C.-based Chair & Equipment Rental & Sales. Still, some users won't purchase these items, he said. "They've never had them and they don't feel like they need them," he said.  "If this isn't the first time they're getting a wheelchair, they feel comfortable with what they had before."