Commentary

The Power of Practicing Palliative CRT

Mark Smith

Mark E. Smith on Capitol Hill

Since the 1990s, “palliative care” medicine has grown exponentially. Palliative care medicine is focused on those with chronic conditions and illnesses, but rather than only focusing on the diagnosis, it recognizes the person in whole. The results are astounding: when the whole of the person is addressed — physically, mentally, emotionally, socially — regardless of prognosis, a higher quality of life is realized. The corner stone of this, of course, is that physicians must truly listen to the patient.

What if we, in the complex rehab industry, took this approach toward mobility technology? What if we didn’t look at power chairs as required solely by diagnoses, but viewed them as required by individuals seeking the highest quality of lives possible? What if we truly designed technologies not for the condition, but around the individual, per his or her wishes?

Good Intentions vs. What Consumers Want

Several years ago, I recognized the value of this approach more than ever in our industry. As we brought more and more users into the literal design process, those of us involved quickly realized that what consumers truly needed wasn’t totally what we or our industry was producing. All prior intentions were good; however, the minute that we took a “palliative” approach — listening and focusing on each individual’s entire quality of life — we saw the future of mobility products.

Complex rehab consumers quickly showed us what was lacking in their mobility. They pointed to many aspects — from functional seat elevation to increased battery range to lighting, and on and on. All of it, however, came back to a fundamental principle: mobility technology that addresses not just diagnoses, but the entire life experience of the individual.

Consumers are shifting from wanting us to listen, to demanding that we listen — and rightfully so. It’s proving a tremendous opportunity to not just learn and grow as professionals, but to improve the lives of those who rely on complex rehab technology (CRT) even further, all through a palliative approach. And when we rightfully listen to consumers, we’re in the position to further deliver quality-of-life solutions that they wholeheartedly wish for and need.

What we’ve also witnessed in this process is that when we truly encompass all of consumers’ needs, they express empowerment in all aspects of their lives. Quality-of-life features must be considered, and through consumers seeing that occur, they are rightfully raising expectations, understandably unwilling to settle for less than they want, need and deserve for complete social inclusion. In fact, this dynamic is extending to ATPs and funding sources, where more quality-of-life features, like seat elevation, are being readily covered. With this ground swell, it seems only a matter of time before the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services must change its antiquated in-home-use-only reimbursement policy that ignores the quality of life of individuals using CRT.

Defining Our Future

As an industry, our future has been staked out — and it’s palliative. We must listen, include and address a consumer-driven, quality-of-life path in every aspect of our work. Consumers are increasingly setting the bar, and for those among us who don’t rise to it, consumers are already proving that they will take their mobility needs to other providers and manufacturers.

For those of us who are rising to the ethical and moral demands that consumers are requiring in all aspects of complex rehab technology — true quality-of-life-based products and services — we’re not only improving our industry, but more importantly, the lives of those we serve.

Editor’s note: Mark E. Smith is a general manager for Quantum Rehab and Pride Mobility Products, and is a power chair user of 40 years.

This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

Mark E. Smith is the General Manager for Pride Mobility Products Corp., and can be reached at 800-800-8586, or via email at msmith@pridemobility.com.

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