Editor's Note

What Will Come

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As I type this — in the first week of April — people in 42 states and several U.S. territories are under orders to stay home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve tuned into weekly complex rehab technology (CRT) Webinar updates — cohosted by NCART, NRRTS, U.S. Rehab, and the Clinician Task Force — not just to see what seating and mobility policy adjustments are being made during this public health emergency, but also to try to discern what CRT will be like when we emerge into a new normal.

We can predict some of what’s to come. In the first Webinar on April 2, Cathy Carver, Executive Director of the Clinician Task Force, said almost a third of the country’s seating clinics had closed, either due to lack of incoming clients or because clinic staff had been redirected to support COVID-19 patients. Many clients were postponing wheelchair evaluations… not surprising, since people who use CRT are in higher-risk categories should they get sick.

Cathy voiced concern for children no longer receiving school-based speech, occupational and physical therapy because of school closures. In the second (April 9) Webinar, Cathy shared that her clinic already had 70 clients on a waiting list to come in once local stay-at-home orders are lifted.

CRT wheelchairs already have longer lead times due to their custom-built and custom fit status, and due to complex documentation and funding policies. What will happen when many more clients than usual want to come to clinic for assessments? Will the lack of timely OT, PT, and/or optimal seating and mobility interventions during the pandemic exacerbate postural issues or raise clients’ risk for pressure injuries?

How quickly will therapists, clinics, ATPs, CRT providers and CRT manufacturers be able to ramp back up to full speed? How will they decide who gets seen first, and which wheelchairs are spec’d and built first? Do they have the capacity to ramp up even further to handle a backlog of client visits and equipment orders?

In upcoming months, consumers who use CRT will call on this industry as they never have before. Their voices will be joined by those of prescribing physicians, social workers, case managers, funding sources and referral sources. Just as the COVID-19 pandemic is pressuring us in a way we’ve never experienced before, so will the days to come.

Maybe the ones who will be the most efficient in those future days will be the ones who most efficiently managed the days of the pandemic.

It will be a new world. But when it seems everything is changing, I am glad some things never do: Your dedication to your clients and craft, your resourcefulness and creative intelligence, your indomitable spirit. We all have to adapt, yes. But please, never change.

This article originally appeared in the Apr/May 2020 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

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

Rolling Dynamics, Rolling Resistance &  Optimizing Wheeled Prosthetics