What Will Come
- By Laurie Watanabe
- Apr 01, 2020
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
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 April/May 2020 issue of Mobility Management.
Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.