Tech bridges distance for mobility provider

Friday, February 28, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – When one of Michelle McMahon’s clients moved from Wyoming to Mexico and began experiencing pain, she could not simply go adjust his seating system. So he asked her if she had Skype.

“He said, ‘Could I have you at least see me in my chair once over the computer?’” said McMahon, president of Frontier Access & Mobility. “Sure enough, I could see him and he could see me.”

On Skype, McMahon talked his Mexican therapist through a mat evaluation to determine how to modify the system. The therapist made adjustments to keep the patient comfortable until new parts arrived from Wyoming. McMahon’s client feels better, she says, thanks to technology. 

Telerehab is the future of healthcare and rehab services, says University of Pittsburgh Associate Professor Mark Schmeler, who has studied the field. 

“There’s no denying that’s how a good portion of healthcare is going to be delivered,” he said.

The HME industry has been slower to adopt telerehab because it’s not typically funded, but that doesn’t mean providers like McMahon aren’t testing the waters, Schmeler said.

“It’s still sort of the wild west,” he said. “People are doing different things, whatever works. It’s all at the homegrown phase of telerehab for wheelchairs.”

In a rural state like Wyoming, technology can be a savior, not only for McMahon but also for her clients. She mentioned another client whose back-up chair had become too small. 

“I said, ‘I don’t have time to drive five hours to help you guys—we’ve got to let technology help us,’” she said.

Again, using Skype, McMahon walked a therapist through a mat evaluation and got the measurements she needed to deliver a new chair. 

“This isn’t going to work for everybody, but I think it’s going to work well,” she said. “The funding’s just not there to travel two to three hours for one piece of equipment.”