What's complex rehab worth?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

TRINIDAD, Colo. - Complex rehab providers might believe they are making a difference in patients' lives, but can they prove it?

That's what Simon Margolis, executive director of NRRTS, is working with the University of Pittsburg to find out. Margolis is helping to conduct a pilot program at 33 sites in 18 states to find out if patient outcomes data can be collected, funneled to the University of Pittsburgh and analyzed to show industry trends. The survey is called the Functional Mobility Assessment (FMA).

"We know we're good at what we do," said Margolis. "However, we're doing it in a healthcare industry environment that's outcomes driven. You have to prove that you can do something."

As part of the pilot, clinicians will give patients a 10-question survey before and after they get a new wheelchair. Patients will either agree or disagree with statements about comfort, health, ease of tasks, mobility indoors and outdoors, and use of public and private transportation, among others. If their condition improves, clinicians will know they and their equipment have made a difference. 

Clinicians will then fax the survey results to NRRTS, which will send them on to Mark Schmeler, a professor in the University of Pittsburgh's School of Health and Rehabilitation. 

"One of the issues we've always had in our field is that we don't have formalized, uniform outcomes," said Schmeler. "We have limited research and limited ability to advocate to third-party payers and Medicare and all the other stakeholders as to the effectiveness of what we do."

Schmeler developed the FMA and has been using it at the university and VA clinics. He said the tool has been well-received because it doesn't add to the clinician's workload. He is working with NRRTS to try to get more results into his database.

Both Margolis and Schmeler said that if the pilot goes well, they'd like to broaden the use of FMA. They expect to report on results at Medtrade this fall.