How Complex Rehab Can Connect With Amputee Clients
- By Haley Samsel
- Apr 01, 2020
To learn more about the mobility issues that face people with
limb loss, Mobility Management spoke with Rick Bowers,
managing editor of Amplitude magazine. Bowers, who has nearly
two decades of experience as a writer and editor for amputee-related
publications, says Amplitude’s mission is to provide news
and resources for amputees on topics ranging from peer support
and emotional issues to finances, mobility
and active living. This interview has been
edited for length and clarity.
Q: What are the largest challenges that
amputees and their families face when it
comes to finding mobility products that
work for them?
Rick Bowers: One problem is that they
may start out with a walker, a wheelchair,
crutches, or another mobility device that
is not ideal for their individual needs and
situation. Regardless of why they start out
with that type of device, they may continue to use it from then
on, even though a different type of device — or more than one
device — might serve them better.
Changing to a different device or using more than one device
may provide more mobility and help prevent harmful secondary
conditions caused by the use of a less-than-ideal device. Each type
of mobility device has its pros and cons, and amputees should have
the opportunity to choose the devices to maximize the benefits
and minimize the disadvantages to their health and lifestyle.
Another major problem is cost, especially for amputees who
don’t have insurance that covers the devices they need at a high
level. Insurance companies often don’t seem to consider that
paying money for the right devices today — even if it is costly
— might save them a lot more money in the future. As a result,
amputees may be stuck with the device they can afford rather
than the devices that will better serve them.
Finally, many companies that produce mobility devices,
especially wheelchairs and scooters, don’t seem to see amputees
as potential customers, perhaps because they think amputees
use prosthetic devices and therefore don’t need other mobility
devices. Amplitude surveyed our readers a few years ago and
found that while some amputees use wheelchairs or scooters
exclusively, a large percentage also use them as secondary
devices, even if they already use prostheses. The same seems to
be true for crutches, walkers, and other mobility devices.
For example, in our Amplitude’s Guide to Living With Limb
Loss, a hip-disarticulation amputee discussed how although he at
first decided to use crutches instead of a prosthesis, the crutches
began to cause injuries to his hands. As a result, he started using
a prosthesis. However, because he can’t handle wearing the prosthesis
for more than an hour or two a day because it causes skin
and tissue damage, he only wears it a couple of times a week. At
other times, he uses a variety of other mobility devices.
Since various devices can benefit amputees, it would be wise
for mobility companies to let more amputees know what they
have to offer and how their products can help them. It’s an open
and underserved market.
Q: Do you find there are certain products and services that
have grown in popularity with amputees over the past few years?
Bowers: I think amputees expect to be able to do more than
they may have in the past. While they have sometimes been
held back by a lack of access to the devices that would make this
possible, I believe if they know more about mobility devices that
are available to help them get out and enjoy life and they can
afford them, many would use these products. I’m thinking especially
of the sports and off-road wheelchairs that are available.
Q: How could companies improve their approach when
working with people who have experienced limb loss?
Bowers: Manufacturers should realize that amputees could be
a great customer base even if they already use prostheses and/or other devices. Amputees can often benefit from using more
than one type of mobility device. When they need to go to the
bathroom in the night or cook dinner, for example, it may be
easier and more convenient for them to use crutches or a wheelchair
than to put on their prosthetic legs. When they are going
shopping, it may be easier for them to use a wheelchair than their
prostheses. Some could benefit from using a wheelchair at work,
even though they also have prosthetic legs. They can often use
additional devices as secondary devices, and probably would if
these companies advertised to them.
Another major way these companies might be able to attract amputees
is by having staff members who can help them obtain insurance
coverage for their products and help them appeal insurance company
rejections. Many prosthetics companies offer this service.
Also: Have these companies done or sponsored any research
that shows how their products can benefit amputees in a way that
they can be considered medically necessary? Or perhaps they
could show that their products would extend the life of amputees’
prosthetic devices. Such studies might make insurance companies
more likely to cover their products for amputees.
This article originally appeared in the April/May 2020 issue of Mobility Management.
Haley Samsel is the Associate Content Editor of HME Business and Mobility Management.