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On the Editor's Desk

by: Liz Beaulieu - Wednesday, December 9, 2009

1800wheelchair_built_by_wendy_2l1So I never thought much about how traditional jackets wouldn't work so well for wheelchairs users until Darren Ortsman at 1800wheelchair told me about the Built by Wendy wheelchair poncho. The limited edition poncho, available exclusively at 1800wheelchair, features a longer front for better leg coverage and a shorter back for better seated comfort. But it's about more than functionality. It's probably more stylish than any other wheelchair poncho you've ever seen. It was designed by Wendy Mullin, a New York City designer that's a favorite of artists and celebrities like Sofia Coppola and James Franco. It's available in khaki or navy cotton linen and features a plaid liner.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Monday, December 7, 2009

rhb-choppers5If you’ve ever watched the reality TV show American Chopper, you know that Paul Sr., the founder of Orange County Choppers and patriarch of the Teutul family, is a big guy. His sleeveless shirts and tattooed arms make sure you notice.

But provider Doug Crana, president of Consolidated Medical, which, like Orange County Chopper, has its home base in Newburgh, N.Y., says Paul Sr.’s even bigger in person.

“He looks bigger than he does on TV,” he said. “It was pretty neat.”

Crana met Paul Sr. recently, when he and his employees fitted him for a TiLite manual wheelchair (Consolidated Medical is a TiLite dealer). Paul Sr. doesn’t need a wheelchair, but during an episode that is scheduled to air Jan. 7, he will ride away in a wheelchair-accessible motorcycle that his shop has designed and built.

After the episode, Orange County Choppers will donate the motorcycle to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

“Everything was a donation—from TiLite donating the wheelchair to us donating our time to do the fitting,” Crana said. “It took us maybe two or three hours, so I don’t think we’ll be a big part of the episode, but it’s nice to get the recognition.”

The motorcycle, Crana explained, has three wheels, making room for a wheelchair ramp in the back. The ramp features an EZ Lock docking system to secure the wheelchair in place.

“It’s very, very different,” he said. “Like nothing I’ve seen before.”

American Choppers airs on TLC. Click here for viewing information.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Friday, December 4, 2009

Noridian Administrative Services, the DME MAC for Jurisdiction D, published a revised article this week on the difference between an assistive technology professional (ATP) that works as a clinician and an ATP that works as a supplier. CMS will now refer to an ATP that works as a supplier as a sATP (I know - another acronym!). To learn more, including whether an sATP can perform any part of the face-to-face exam required for power mobility devices, click here.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Thursday, December 3, 2009

In the heyday of home medical equipment, providers rarely worried about the profitability of their service departments. Not anymore, especially when it comes to power wheelchairs, says Dick Fuller.

Fuller, who has 27 years of industry experience, mostly with power wheelchairs, started a consulting company recently to help providers restructure their service departments to make it easier to determine their profitability.

I don’t mean to imply that the way we used to run service departments was wrong,” he said. “It’s just that the business model has shifted. We used to make a pretty decent margin (selling equipment) and off of that margin, we made sure the customer was well cared for. We’re dancing to a different tune now.”

The power wheelchair market has been hit by reimbursement cuts totaling about 37% since 2006. As a result, providers are now worried about a lot, including their service departments.

See the January issue for the rest of the story.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I had never heard the term "power soccer" until I met Kevin Williams, a 31-year-old wheelchair user, earlier this year. Basically, it's a sport played with an over-sized soccer ball by wheelchair users with guards on their feet. Williams LOVES power soccer. Well, CNN says the sport is "catching on." It produced this story on power soccer last week (see below). Check it out to learn the story of a power soccer player who left France to promote the sport here in the United States and another player who will graduate from college next spring with a degree in business management. During the interviews, notice the Invacare logo on the banner in the background.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thomas Randall "Randy" Snow, a wheelchair athlete and a pioneer of the Paralympic Games, died last month of a heart attack in El Salvador, where he was giving a wheelchair-tennis clinic. Snow's father, Tom Snow, told the Dallas News that in 1984 his son took part in a wheelchair race at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles that set the stage for the Paralympic Games.

He really got the Paralympic Games started," he said. "That's when it really started, as a result of that race he was in."

Snow also owned his own motivational company, NO XQs, and worked for Sunrise Medical for 20 years.

Click here to ready Snow's full obituary, including how he overcame drug and alcohol addiction to become an inspiration to other wheelchair athletes.

All over the world, I've seen guys in wheelchairs with Randy's name on the back of them," Tom Snow told the Dallas News.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Monday, November 30, 2009

I have a feeling, with 552 views, that the HME News TV interview with Doug Harrison is making the rounds. I'm not surprised.

Harrison, CEO and president of The Scooter Store, is no Pollyana, so what he has to say can be either a breathe of fresh air or a lightening rod. Take, for example, what Harrison has to say about the prospects of future reductions to power wheelchair reimbursement:

At some point, Medicare's not going to pay $4,000 for a power wheelchair," he said. "They're going to pay $2,000. And as soon as they get that, they're going to want to pay $1,000. My prediction over the next five years is that everything Medicare pays for is going to be way less than it is today."

Harrison is the first to admit that The Scooter Store, in"the first part of its life cycle," didn't "do cost management" thanks to high reimbursement. "There wasn't a problem that we couldn't grow out of," he said.

But not anymore—and probably not ever again.

The way Harrison sees it, The Scooter Store—and the industry, in general—now has two options: try to maintain power wheelchair reimbursement at $4,000 and probably fail; or try to find a way to provide a $1,000 wheelchair at some semblance of a profit. He's already getting to work on the latter.

Watch the interview to see how.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Feast your pre-Thanksgiving eyes on this...

I was poking around NCART's Web site this afternoon and watched this video of Sean Carter walking for the first time after being in a wheelchair for more than four years due to a traumatic brain injury. His mom says, "This, to us, is the first step of the rest of Sean's life. We're giving him the ability to walk again." Sean's first step comes at about 2 minutes and by 3:08, he's well on his way.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Monday, November 23, 2009

As part of today's and tomorrow's Webinar, NCART distributed a "working definition" of complex rehab. The definition is one of the first steps in creating a separate benefit for complex rehab. Here are some snippets of the definition, abridged and in yellow, followed by comments and questions:

The products: The definition includes manual and power wheelchair systems, adaptive seating systems, alternative positioning systems and other mobility devices that require evaluation, fitting, adjustment or programming. Augmentative and alternative communication devices may be added at a later date.

The separate benefit will cover only Group 3 power wheelchairs. The word on the street is that there is a list of about 250 codes being considered.

The person: Individuals with 21 diagnoses, including traumatic brain injury and cerebral palsy, as well as “other disability or disease that is determined through individual consideration,” may require complex rehab products and services.

The word on the street is that the "individual consideration" clause is a catch-all of sorts. For example, there may be an individual that doesn't meet the requirements for a Group 3 power wheelchair, but he still needs alternative controls. The definition is written in a way to cover that individual.

The process: Consideration is given to a person’s immediate and anticipated medical and functional needs, including activities of daily living, mobility, positioning, pressure relief and communication. The provision of complex rehab has two components: clinical (physical/functional evaluation, treatment plan, goal setting, preliminary device feature determination, trials/simulations, fittings, function-related training, determination of outcomes, and related follow-up) and technology (evaluation of the home environment, transportation assessment, technology assessment, equipment demonstration/trial/simulation, product feature match to determine physiologic and functional needs, configuration, fitting, adjustments, and product-related training and follow-up).

Both include trials, simulations, fittings. Duplication of efforts?

The professionals: The clinical services are provided by a licensed/certified PT or OT. The technology-related services are provided by a certified, registered or otherwise credentialed complex rehab technology supplier.

Why didn't they mention any of the certifications by name (ATP, RTS, CRTS)?

Check back in tomorrow for my story on today's Webinar.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ann Eubank, executive director of The Users First Alliance, has posted videos of wheelchair users on the organization's Facebook page. Eubank shot the video at the recent Abilities Expo in Atlanta and she plans to share them with members of Congress. In an e-mail she posted to the NRRTS listserv, she said:

To make change in DC  we HAVE to have the voice of the consumer with us. Our message that we are  not making enough money does not hold much water, especially with health care reform."

Eubank encourages providers to shoot their own video, asking consumers for their name; condition; why their wheelchair is important; and what would happen without it or with the wrong or no equipment. E-mail your video or photos (with the same info) to Eubank at

Liz Beaulieu