Skip to Content

Technology driving complex rehab market

Technology driving complex rehab market

A technology stalwart in the home medical equipment industry, complex rehab equipment hasn’t let the two-year pandemic slow down advancements in the field. If anything, the industry has gained momentum and manufacturers are working harder than ever to add more high-tech features to their products. 

“The past two years have really pushed everyone to determine alternative solutions to provide clients equipment,” said Jay Brislin, vice president of Exeter, Pa.-based Quantum Rehab. “The industry has done a solid job pivoting, using telehealth and virtual meetings to get clients the equipment they need.  We also continue to see the advancement of technology platforms being used to service and evaluate existing equipment of clients. At Quantum, we are determined and dedicated to creating and innovating services to meet the needs of the growing digital world.” 

John Gadue, product engineering associate for Fort Myers, Fla.-based Merits Health Products, credits sophisticated computer aided design software and tech-savvy designers with being the catalysts for technological breakthroughs. 

“Advances in the tools that help us create our equipment are the stars,” he said. “CAD software developers have made amazing strides in helping our designers create stronger, more natural moving positioning with reduction in materials and waste. With everything that has happened during the pandemic our designers, engineers and sales team can communicate more efficiently, bringing ideas and suggestions in from the field. All of this helps guide our team to the next generation of Merits products.” 

Another pandemic-influenced modification that may seem unrelated to technology is advanced hygienic materials, said Anna Sokol, RN, clinical education specialist for Elyria, Ohio-based Invacare’s Matrx Seating division. 

“The pandemic pushed clinicians and administrators to review all infection control policies and protocols in many organizations, which identified gaps related to cleaning and disinfection of wheelchair equipment,” she said. “Pandemic-related advances also prompted discussion about introduction of new wheelchair seating standards concerning cleaning and disinfection. We developed Matrx cushions and backs with infection control in mind, utilizing specific cover materials and foam technology.” 

Smart technology – which has seen its value soar during the pandemic – is a key element of strategic planning in complex rehab, said Joshua Haynes, director of research and development for Merits. 

“We have done plenty of study on the benefits of an internet-connected chair,” he said. “I can’t divulge all our secrets… but I can tell you that an [Internet of Things] product absolutely has the benefits of increased feedback for clinicians and providers and Merits is looking at how best to securely implement these IOT features.” 

Coverage disconnect 

Telehealth is part of the IOT landscape and feeds into the smart technology movement in complex rehab.  

Larry Jackson, president of Lebanon, Tenn.-based Sunrise Medical, concurs that the pandemic jump-started smart technology and connectivity for complex rehabilitation technology users, but adds that some mechanical upgrades are hampered by archaic payment methods. 

“I think telehealth remote fittings and evaluations have been a huge benefit for consumers – there is still more to do, but for the most part many evaluations have been done remotely,” Jackson said. “There are many things we are working on to advance seating and positioning technology without increasing allowables, but it is extremely challenging. What other industry has to work off pricing from over 30 years ago? Absolutely everything has gone up.” 

Michael Hughes, national sales manager for Merits, sees that same lack of coverage by payers, though some clients are willing to pay out-of-pocket for certain advancements. 

"Right now, consumers are looking for power adjustable seat height -- the ability to raise up seven-to-12 inches enhances their life by giving them more freedom and independence,” he said. “Some consumers are willing to pay for this enhancement, but a majority are looking for payers to cover the cost. Very few payers currently cover this, however associations like NCART, NRRTS, AAHomecare and the ITEM Coalition have made power adjustable seat height coverage a priority.” 

Consumers expect to be comfortable in their wheeled mobility equipment, a concept that seems simplistic but is actually complicated, said Stephanie Tanguay, clinical education specialist for Invacare’s Matrx division.  

“Long thought to be too subjective to be an attainable or reasonable goal by funding sources, comfort is often perceived differently by consumers, clinicians, and caregivers,” she said. “There has been more focus on aspects of seating surfaces such as microclimate which has led to use of some heat dissipating materials and fabrics which can reduce heat retention and relative humidity at the point of interface for consumers. While some users have the financial resources to privately these more costly devices, most do not.” 

Continued advancement 

“Technology advancements continue to happen all around us at a rapid pace and keeping up with those advancements is a challenge at times for the complex rehab industry,” Brislin said. “Complex rehab manufacturers need to be on top of their game to ensure they are creating products that have smart technology built into the products. They must also realize that these products will be with the patient for an average of five years or more. This poses another challenge – just look at the frequent advancements in the smartphone industry.”  

Brislin believes Bluetooth capability and technology is a necessity when it comes to continued advancement of technology in the complex rehab space.  

“It is imperative manufacturers are focused on the continued enhancements of Bluetooth technology to build other technologies into client complex rehab chairs,” he said. “Being able to keep advancing the ability for chairs to connect to clients’ smartphones and tablets is extremely important, along with leveraging that technology to further advance devices for alternative drive controls options and overall monitoring of the chairs’ functions.”


To comment on this post, please log in to your account or set up an account now.