Editor's Note

Welcome to Our Year!

Our YearOn the way home from the San Jose Abilities Expo the week before Thanksgiving, I realized my throat was sore. A few hours later, the virus attained stampede speed, and I spent Thanksgiving in bed.

On the first day back from the holiday, I was catching up with Quantum Rehab’s Mark E. Smith, who politely asked about my weekend. I said a virus got me on my way back from the show.

Mark gravely expressed sympathy, then added, “But it’s to be expected.”

“Because travel is tough on the immune system?”

“Because that show is full of disabled people. You’re lucky you just caught a cold. You could have caught cerebral palsy or paralysis.”

It was the best laugh I’d had in a week. I wished Mark had been around to share that perspective when I’d been feeling sorry for myself on Thanksgiving.

As our chat transitioned to other topics, that theme of perspective stayed.

Mark said he believes 2015 will be a breakout year for complex rehab technology, and he’s not the only one. I heard it among exhibitors at the Abilities Expo — from those who said it out loud and those who implied it by talking about new technology they were readying for launch. In fact, I was hearing it through the last quarter of 2014: Great things will happen for CRT in 2015. This is our year.

Speaking from a manufacturing viewpoint, Mark suggested many new products in recent years had been designed first and foremost from the funding perspective — i.e., Will payors reimburse for this? For the last decade and a half, Medicare policy changes, competitive bidding, capped-rental processes and budget cuts have hurt the industry financially, but perhaps also cast a darker shadow on ingenuity, creative intelligence and bold moves. As a result of hard times, had the industry grown too cautious? Too eager to design products around funding sources’ demands? Have clinical efficacy and consumer independence taken a back seat to what the almighty payor demands?

Some manufacturers think so — and in fact, they think that funding concerns have become default explanations for products that are less innovative than they could be. That’s not to downplay the financial realities of the last decade-plus. Manufacturers and providers alike fought to make payroll and keep their doors open. A lot of good people suffered through no wrong of their own. I know that.

But now I’m hearing manufacturers say they’re ready to move on. And what’s really exciting is how they plan to push forward.

When you’re drowning, keeping your head above water sounds like a very good goal. If you’re managing to tread water while most others around you are going under, then continuing to tread water can sound pretty wonderful.

But sometimes, even a company in danger of drowning sets its sights on something much greater. Think of Chrysler in the 1980s with Lee Iacocca, or Steve Jobs and Apple starting in the late 1990s.

What’s exciting is not just that manufacturers say 2015 is their year for new product launches, but that they also say it won’t be new-products-as-usual. They’re aiming for higher levels of innovation, and if that’s true, it’s good news for all other stakeholders, from ATPs and clinicians to consumers, caregivers… and yes, funding sources.

I can’t wait to see what’s next. Cheers!

This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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