Group polls users

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In August, the National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NSCIA) planned to begin polling wheelchair users on their ability to access appropriate complex rehab technology and services. HME News spoke with Executive Director Eric Larson about what spurred the NSCIA to conduct the poll (hint: the rehab industry had something to do with it) and what it plans to do with the results.

HME News: Why is the NSCIA polling wheelchair users on access?

Eric Larson: We were starting to hear from Invacare and other folks that there needed to be a stronger, more calearly defined consumer voice. A number of providers and manufacturers have been bringing that voice to the table, because they employ wheelchair users. But the reality is, once a provider or manufacturer employs a consumer, he's not going to be perceived purely as a consumer. The industry has been faulted for being so vocal, but that's not the issue. We haven't been holding up our end.

HME: So the poll is an effort by the NSCIA to add its voice to those of providers and manufacturers?

Larson: Exactly. It also addresses the need for more valid, objective data to enhance the argument.

HME: The rehab industry has long talked about strengthening its relationships with consumer groups.

Larson: We can't align ourselves completely with the industry. In fact, we need to do the opposite--speak with a more independent voice.

HME: So how should the rehab industry and consumer groups work together?

Larson: The idea isn't for us to become one, but for us to understand our strategic interests. We both need the same group of people to be healthy to fulfill our missions. We don't need to agree on everything, but 99% of the time, there's enough alignment.

HME: What kind of poll results do you expect?

Larson: We expect to discover some problems. Everyone agrees it's not a perfect system. We may have slightly different opinions on what we need to do about that, but that's OK. At least the poll points out the problems, with data to back them up. That's a good starting point.

HME: How will you go about trying to fix those problems?

Larson: If the poll points out that folks aren't getting proper assessments, then there's a reason for that. It may not be because providers don't want to provide good service. It may be because, well, they can't get paid for it. OK, what can be changed so that they can provide service differently or get paid for it?