Equipment Clinic

Tools of the Trade

As an ATS, my goal is to provide equipment that works on many levels. Equipment must meet the daily needs of my customer; address medical needs established by physical and occupational therapists and other medical professionals; satisfy the fiscal needs of funding sources; and be available in the needed time frame.

Sounds like a lot of work, right? Well, it is! Achieving these goals requires all healthcare professionals to work as a team — and as the mobility equipment provider, you play a crucial role. Here are tools you can use to make the process beneficial for everyone.

During the assessment, have a variety of components available to try. Because we specialize in seating and positioning, we include seat cushions made of fluid, foam, air or combinations of materials. I am frequently surprised by the subtle changes that occur when we try different wheelchair cushions. By offering choices, you allow physical or occupational therapists to recommend the most appropriate equipment to their clients.

Show new products to your referral sources, and demonstrate the differences. When you recommend the same cushion time after time, for instance, you are not taking advantage of potential benefits available in a lesser-known product.

Ask manufacturers how and why their products are different from their competitors’. This will make you an expert in your field and will help you to make more customized recommendations. Tradeshows are the best way to efficiently see and compare a variety of products.

Consult with healthcare professionals who are part of your team. You will be relying on them to create cohesive documentation to justify your customer’s medical need. This documentation will be key to obtaining funding and reimbursement down the road, so it’s important to communicate with the rest of the team during the entire equipment-purchasing process.

Include your own ATS assessment. Provide a crystal-clear picture to the person in charge of approving or denying your payment.

Keep basic tools and parts in stock. A qualified rehab provider has an inventory of parts and a factory-trained service department to respond to emergency or routine repairs.

You don’t do customers any favors by providing them with expensive equipment, then leaving them to fend for themselves. Many repairs are minor and can be executed with a basic set of tools (see sidebar). Making minor “courtesy” adjustments to headrests, seats and backs reinforces that you are a professional. Having spare joysticks, modules, motors and other interchangeable parts on hand will help you figure out the problem, and get your customer back in his chair more quickly.

Know when to bring a repair in-house. If the repair requires a seat rail extractor, grinder, bench vise or some other bulky or intricate tool, do the work in-house. Nothing is more embarrassing than taking apart a chair in front of your referral source, only to find you don’t have the tools to fix it (or you can’t remember how to put it back together).

If your sole motivation is money, don’t look to rehab. But if you want to make a difference in someone’s life, and get job satisfaction while you’re at it, there is no better place to be.

Editor’s note: This column and the following sidebar originally appeared in Mobility Management’s premiere issue, March-April 2002.

Sidebar: Be Prepared

Providing quality repair service requires training and education. It also requires anticipation.

According to Rick Graver, co-founder of Medtech Services in Reno, Nev., just a few basic tools will take care of 90 percent of the repairs you’ll ever need to make.

“Whether I’m adjusting a footrest as a courtesy to someone who comes into the shop, or going out to adjust a seating system for a pediatric client, these are the tools I carry,” Graver says. “Plus, my service guys carry an air compressor in their delivery vehicles, because they may be a fixing a flat tire in the field.”

Graver is also filling a foot locker with seating and positioning components, including butterfly harnesses, straps, hip belts, lateral trunk supports, headrests and other hardware. “We can use them for assessments,” he explains, “or to make a repair or exchange in the field.”

Tools to Carry

— Electric drill with bits (various bits)

— Allen-head wrenches, various sizes, standard and metric (most commonly used: 7/16” and ½”)

— Pliers: Needlenose, etc.

— Tape measure

Estimated initial investment: $250

About the Author

Rick Graver of Medtech Services

Mobility Management Podcast