Take 'progressive' approach to pediatrics

Monday, April 26, 2010

Manufacturers are thinking smaller when it comes to products for the pediatric market these days. Patients as young as 18-month-old infants are being fitted for power mobility and other equipment for early age development.

“Things are changing—there is a more progressive attitude toward pediatrics,” said Jim Black, marketing manager for seating and positioning systems at Elyria, Ohio-based Invacare. “Evidence-based studies are showing that people in their 30s and 40s have shoulder pain and other physical issues related to improper fitting as children.”

As a result, Invacare is focusing on pediatric chairs that are in better proportion to a child’s growing body, Black said.

“In the past, it was common to take an adult-sized chair and downsize it,” he said. “Now we make a product that conforms to young children and their unique body shapes.”

Once thought to be too young for power mobility equipment, recent experiences with toddlers suggest otherwise, Black contends.

“An infant power chair helps create the ability to be mobile,” he said. “It’s like teaching a child to play the piano at an early age—it increases mental capacity and brain power, as well as improves balance and core strength.”

Jay Doherty, clinical education manager for Exeter, Pa.-based Pride Mobility Products, agrees that “kids who move through space earlier have enhanced cognition.”

From a design perspective, the chairs are smaller, but the systems are “growable” for new seating components, back rests and cushions, Doherty said.

Focus on kids

The pediatric market is a challenging, but highly rewarding category for providers, Doherty said.

“Because children grow and change over time, it is challenge,” he said. “Providing the best equipment for the child that also meets funding requirements can also be difficult. It can be a real battle to get a piece of equipment funded.”

Even so, matching a pediatric patient with the right equipment brings a tremendous amount of satisfaction, Doherty said. Showing dedication and loyalty to the patients and their families also guarantees a long, fruitful relationship, he said.

“A strong bond forms between the client, family and provider,” he said. “If the provider can anticipate their needs, they will always come back.”

Because pediatric mobility patients have a team of clinicians serving them, it is imperative that rehab providers stay connected to that community, Doherty said. The best way is to serve as an educator about the equipment, holding in-services at pediatric clinics and rehab centers for physicians, nurses and therapists.

Indeed, the provider is “a critical part of the care team who brings it all together,” Black said.

Technology for pediatric equipment is becoming more sophisticated, with better electronics and designs making seating systems easier to operate and maneuver.

“Better design comes down to simple manufacturing,” Black said. “Front stability is as important as back stability, which means producing wider and lower casters. Better ‘rollability’ and better wheel access are features that make a chair perform best.”

Pediatric bathing

Mobility and respiratory are long-established segments of the pediatric market, but other product lines, like bath safety, are starting to emerge, said Wade Lawrence, regional sales manager for Oakdale, Pa.-based Clarke Health Care Products.

“Bathing is a major issue for many pediatric patients, parents and caregivers,” he said. “And it is an area that is often overlooked. Bath lifts, shower chairs and toileting are just a few products that should be taken into consideration for the pediatric market.”

While bath safety is a purely retail product offering for geriatric clients, bath safety items for pediatric clients are often covered by Medicaid, Lawrence said.

“Medicaid is the key for these types of products,” he said. “It provides coverage for some patients age 21 and under.”

Lawrence concedes that like many funding sources, Medicaid can be difficult to deal with at times. “Some states are better than others,” he said.

As with mobility equipment, the best bath safety options offer sound ergonomics to the user, Lawrence said.

“The cheapest alternative is not what is best for the patient, especially for those with seating and positioning equipment,” he said. “Getting them the best products at an early age ensures proper development as they grow.”