Patient growth at heart of pediatrics

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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Serving the pediatric market presents its own unique set of challenges for HME providers because of the meticulous detail it requires for its special patients. The category covers all aspects of a child patient’s care, from providing highly clinical rehab, mobility and respiratory products and services, to navigating what can be a complicated Medicaid reimbursement system.

Technology that grows

Providers committed to this market have deftly handled all of those obstacles out of compassion and dedication for their young patients and do what it takes to help them. One area getting a major boost: manufacturers are creating more products that patients can grow up with at a measured pace.

“Accommodating growth is an important factor in the design and manufacture of pediatric mobility devices,” said Melissa Bourque, director of business development power for Lebanon, Tenn.-based Permobil. “However, maximizing the amount of growth over function can have negative consequences for a child’s developing musculoskeletal system. We focus on designs that promote optimal support and position from day one while still allowing growth.”

Bourque cites the company’s TiLite Pilot manual wheelchair, which uses a forward-growth design to enable wheel access from day one, instead of putting the rear wheels out of reach until users grow into the system.

Kelsey DiGiacomo, associate product manager of pediatrics for Fresno, Calif.-based Sunrise Medical, says it is critical to consider each child’s growth rate and respond accordingly.

“We understand that children are growing and changing and that it is important for technology to adjust to their changing needs,” she said. “Many third-party payers expect mobility and seating products to last as much as five years. Therefore, we engineer our product with adjustability built-in to accommodate for growth and other changing needs.”

The goal, DiGiacomo says, is to maintain a proper fit throughout the lifespan of the wheelchair.

“Children, and especially young adolescents, often grow fairly quickly in height, so we focus our designs to build-in as much seat-depth as possible,” she said.

Products that innovate

Advancements in technologies and materials enable designs for pediatric products that are ultra-lightweight and easier to transport, DiGiacomo said.

“It is important for children and their families to be able to maneuver in all environments they encounter during the day—this includes the need to effortlessly get out of their homes and participate in their communities,” she said. “We continually integrate improvements to our designs so that patients can be uniquely fitted for the best mobility product to allow them to focus on social interaction and healthy childhood development.”

Stacey Mullis, director of clinical marketing for Permobil, says new design modifications have also been developed to give patients more control and freedom of movement.

“For children unable to use their hands to direct a traditional joystick, some power wheelchairs incorporate technology that can allow access through a slight head movement, eye movement or foot,” she said. “This type of mobility device can certainly provide a child independence and allow for exploration and play.”

Moreover, Mullis says most power wheelchairs have: a smaller footprint and turning radius than a manual wheelchair, which makes them practical for getting through tight spaces; multiple seating and positioning options that can promote postural stability; and certain options that allow for patients to rest and be toileted in their chairs without the need to be transferred to a bed.

Seeking referrals

Pediatric patients have an extensive support network, from family to clinical professionals across the healthcare continuum. Having the right connections within this broad community ensures that providers have the necessary context to furnish all the appropriate products and services for each patient.

“To identify healthcare facilities and school programs serving children with disabilities, a good starting point can be children’s hospitals and specialty clinics for those with Cerebral Palsy or Muscular Dystrophy,” DiGiacomo said. “These facilities are looking to partner with highly trained and experienced pediatric providers.”

Building relationships with skilled therapists and manufacturer’s sales reps can be an effective way to receive training for providers interested in learning more about the needs of children with disabilities, DiGiacomo says.

As a manufacturer focused on products that are clinically driven to achieve optimal outcomes, Bourque says Permobil supports referral sources through investment in research and community education.

“We are also keenly aware that families are becoming more and more connected through social media platforms, advocacy groups and non-profit organizations,” she said. “These are all powerful tools to help us communicate directly with the people who can benefit most from our products.”