UPitt, NRRTS share findings

Friday, August 17, 2012

PITTSBURGH – With the first year of a pilot project to collect outcomes data under their belts, the University of Pittsburgh and NRRTS are now turning their attention toward how to build on that data to influence Medicare policy.

"One analysis I'd like to do is look at a population of people who got seat elevators versus people who could not get seat elevators," said Mark Schmeler, a professor at UPitt's School of Health and Rehabilitation. "We know anecdotally and clinically that, for many people, that specific intervention is critical, but Medicare flat out says they're not medically necessary."

Among the findings of the pilot project so far: that a slight majority of wheelchair users have complex diagnoses like spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis; and that comfort, health and daily routine are greatly improved when users get effective rehab equipment. 

While these findings will surprise few, the fact that they’re the result of a more scientific process gives the industry a stronger leg to stand on, stakeholders say. 

"Anecdotal data only convinces us," said Simon Margolis, executive director of NRRTS. "It doesn't carry a lot of weight in the real world. We have to prove to other people that we're as good as we say we are—that what we're doing is changing people's lives."

As NRRTS and UPitt dig deeper into the project, they would like to increase the number of participants. The recent findings were based on data from 134 cases from 11 NRRTS registrants in 16 states.

"We want to continue that, and then, after this year, we're going to look at that data and see if we can find specific trends," said Schmeler.