Invacare Hosts Inaugural Rehab Clinicians’ Summit

Invacare Corp.’s first-ever Rehab Clinician’s Summit at the Cleveland Marriott Downtown offered plenty of educational opportunities, a factory tour, a reimbursement update, a Cleveland Indians baseball game and an R&D session with Invacare engineers. But there was another unexpected benefit: camaraderie that can only come from talking it up with peers from the same professional trenches.

The May 8-10 event brought together seating & mobility clinicians from across the country, invited especially by Invacare. “We went out to our local reps and asked them to give us a list of some of the key clinicians in their areas, people who were very involved in rehab products, in prescribing them on a daily basis,” said Mark Sullivan, Invacare VP and category manager of rehab products. Sullivan said Invacare targeted clinicians for this event because in recent years “Medtrade didn’t necessarily serve our purposes. I felt personally like I was seeing fewer therapists than I had at Medtrade in the past.”

May 8 was arrival day for attendees, and also a chance to visit Invacare’s factory. “I think the number-one highlight was the plant tour,” Sullivan said. “They got two significant things from that. One, a lot of them had never been through a factory, especially a factory like Invacare. Raw tube comes in one door, and a wheelchair goes out the other. When they saw what a massive operation it was to make their chairs, I think that gave them a huge appreciation. And their number-one takeaway was the passion of the employees on the line. It was very evident from talking to the employees of how proud they were of the stuff they were building.”

The next day was dedicated to education. “You don’t want to bring therapists all the way back here and just hawk your wares,” Sullivan pointed out. “We made sure it was very educational. Obviously, Invacare products were at the center of it, but it’s more than ‘Here’s what my chair does.’ It’s ‘Here’s how you set this chair up for your client to make it perform optimally.’ We talked about principles of seating and some of the new drive technologies. ASL talked a lot about early intervention kids and how to train them.”

And attendees were able to earn continuing education units for their participation. “These people in the audience were really smart so it had to be a good presentation to keep them learning and interested,” Sullivan said.

March 9 included a reimbursement update from Cara Bachenheimer, Invacare’s senior VP of government relations. “That was a little bit of a learning experience for us because one of the things we got back on the evals was that people loved the talk, but they didn’t understand some of the acronyms,” Sullivan noted. “Like ‘CMS, what does that mean?’ So that reinforced our point that clinicians needed more education regarding reimbursement... What does competitive bidding mean to them, what are the negatives to that?”

An R&D session gave attendees the chance to see upcoming products and talk to product engineers and managers. “We got a tremendous amount of great feedback on the products and really learned a lot,” Sullivan said. “And certainly, they had a nice time seeing what was coming and that we valued their opinions.”

Ultimately, though, Sullivan said some of the most valuable moments were provided by attendees themselves. “Certainly one of the highlights for the clinicians was the ability to interface with other clinicians from around the country,” Sullivan said. “I walked into the opening reception a little bit late, and the noise level was unbelievable.”

So was the end result of the first-ever Summit, Sullivan said: “It couldn’t have gone any better. They just had a great time.” Details about future events are still being sorted out, but Sullivan promised there would be more. “I don’t know how many times I got asked, ‘We are going to do this again next year, aren’t we?’” Sullivan said. “And we are planning on doing that.”

This article originally appeared in the July 2008 issue of Mobility Management.

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