SCI Clincally Speaking

A Balanced Look at Seating & Positioning

Providers and clinicians share the same ultimate goal of ensuring that a client’s needs are fully met in the most complete and efficient means possible. When it comes to a client’s seating & positioning needs, it is necessary that all parties involved have a clear understanding of how this is best accomplished.

Understanding the Need

A complete wheelchair evaluation is necessary to address what an individual requires from his or her seating system, which may include cushions, backrests, headrests and trunk, arm and leg supports. Only through a thorough seating evaluation can the client’s needs be understood. While the evaluation is the clinician’s key area of focus, providers, as product experts, should take an active role on the evaluation team.

A stable and comfortable position in an appropriate wheelchair is critical to the patient’s comfort, health, productivity and independence. Individualized seating and positioning systems can enhance breathing capacities, prevent skin breakdown, minimize pain and greatly improve overall functional abilities of an individual.

The factors that determine what seating components are going to work best for the client are numerous, but on a general level, are similar to those of other rehab equipment. The patient’s level of injury, his or her capability, body type and activities of daily living must all be factored in, so this information should be gathered during the initial evaluation process.

Know What Is Available

Seating requirements vary from a simple out-of-the-box solution to a highly complex, custom-built power positioning system. Staying up to date on the latest equipment available and the reimbursement rules that govern its provision is a full-time job in itself. Providers must work diligently to educate themselves and their referral sources on the ever-growing number of seating solutions available. Numerous educational opportunities can be found within the industry. By investing in education, providers can serve as a valuable resource to the clinician.

Clinicians should therefore make time to meet with providers by scheduling in-services. Providers are an excellent source of information on the options available to meet the client’s needs. Listen to what they have to say regarding the products they carry and why they are best suited to meeting your patient’s needs.

Providers should engage clinicians for feedback when reviewing the benefits of a product they would like to provide. Chances are the clinician has experience working with the product or a similar item and can offer an informed opinion. Clinicians will also be able to estimate how many of their patients use the product, giving providers an idea of its demand and potential applications.

Clinicians should remain realistic in their expectations. Understand the reimbursement and economic reality for each client. If you are recommending equipment that cannot be funded, then the patients’ needs are not going to be met. Providers should create a system that takes the guesswork out of the reimbursement process. Develop an easy tool for your staff and referral sources to match International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision codes (ICD-9 codes) with the local coverage determinations (LCD) and match the demo equipment available to this tool.

When providers and clinicians work together to stay up to date, they are capable of giving the client access to the broadest range of equipment available.

Efficiency Is Essential

Patients and clinicians depend on providers to deliver seating solutions accurately and quickly. To stay competitive, providers must take steps to ensure that efficiency is a paramount part of their business operations.

To ensure efficiency, providers should evaluate their purchasing history and identify trends regarding the seating products they provide. A clear picture of the most commonly supplied products should emerge. Efficiency can be improved by purchasing your most popular products in quantity.

Providers should partner with a high-quality manufacturer that can provide many solutions to diminish the need to order from multiple vendors. Again, this can dramatically reduce overhead, reduce product lead time and shrink the margin of error.

Product reliability is an essential ingredient to ensuring the satisfaction of the patient, clinician and provider. Replacing or repairing a seating system leads to downtime for the patient, frustration for the clinician and quickly drives up provider costs. If you select a manufacturer who produces and stands behind high-quality products, there will be fewer service calls.

Think Long-Term

Providers must work with clinicians to keep the patient’s future needs in mind. Will the back you provided easily integrate with the positioning components they may need in the future? A commitment should be made to carry products and parts your customers may eventually need or that will serve their changing needs. Choose products that can be easily modified to prevent having to purchase additional items. Identify which products work best with the other equipment you are providing. Compatibility is key. Offer cushions and other seating products that work with all of the chairs you provide. This keeps both patient and provider costs and down and makes future adjustment fast and easy.

Ensure customizations are provided in a timely and cost-effective manner. It is important to consumers that their customizations are performed accurately and as quickly as possible. Partner with a manufacturer that can quickly and reliably deliver custom seating sizes, and if necessary, can help fabricate unique components to reduce time and cost.

Clinicians should educate providers on the progression of a client’s need. If a patient’s ability is likely to improve or decline, a plan that encompasses these changes should be discussed with the provider.

When providers and clinicians work closely together to meet seating and positioning needs, a great outcome is easily attainable. The needs and goals of each simply need to be understood and addressed.

This article originally appeared in the SCI Handbook October 2010 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Authors

Julie Pello is the general manager of Quantum sales for Pride Mobility Products Corp., Exeter, Pa. Julie can be reached via e-mail at or by calling (800) 800-8586.

Mike McCarthy, ATP, is the Quantum Rehab national sales manager/manual wheelchairs & Synergy Seating products for Pride Mobility Products Corp., Exeter, Pa. Mike can be reached via e-mail at or by calling (800) 800-8586.

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