How to do it ... Fitting rehab equipment

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1. Tailor your equipment to your caseload. It sounds simple, but facilities too often load up on things they don't need.

“It's easy to assume the most innovative piece of equipment is exactly what you need in your therapy gym,” says Jeanna Conder, senior director of clinical services for RehabCare. “It may be the newest and coolest looking, but it can quickly become an expensive location to hang a coat.”

Christopher Krause, director of rehab at iN2L, advises “to invest your dollars in technology that has broad applicability and utilization across end-users and disciplines, including physical, occupational and speech therapies.” 

Facilities sometimes make the mistake of buying equipment that looks good on a patient tour, but is too cumbersome to use and not functional, warns Brian Garner, director of sales for therapy and rehab division at Medline.

Rehab equipment choices should ultimately align with and act as a tool for executing a facility's organizational strategy “related to program offerings and therapeutic design,” believes Tracy Storz, marketing administrator for Biodex Medical Systems.

2. Available therapy space often will guide equipment decisions, so know your layout well.

A simple floor plan with dimensions can help stage the equipment, says Conder. This ensures the equipment will fit safely and provide ease for patient access considering wheelchairs, walkers, etc., she adds.

John Leary, senior director of care advocacy and planning for Genesis Rehab Services, is an open-floor plan proponent.

“Create an inventory of therapy equipment based on the needs of the resident/customer,” he says. “A visually appealing, comfortable, and efficiently designed space can improve a resident's function and employees' performance and delivery of care.”

3. Leary also discourages investing in equipment exceeding therapists' competency. Consider including, when appropriate, mock kitchen and restroom space for therapy on balance and transferring.

Two often overlooked areas include private treatment space and storage space for rehab equipment to keep it secure and avoid injury risk, explains Paul Riccio, vice president of finance and development at Vertis Therapy.

“If every space is taken with rehab gadgets and there's no space for functional privacy, it'll be reflected in the outcomes for many patients with medical complexities or privacy needs,” he notes.

4. Make no rehab equipment decisions without involving a therapist or rehab director. If possible, include all relevant therapy disciplines, Leary urges.

Felicia Chew, vice president of clinical services and director of occupational therapy for Genesis Rehab Services, has successfully piloted equipment with therapists in the field to gauge clinical utility before making the plunge, adding, “We didn't discuss pricing with them because they tend to let that cloud judgment.”

Business development and marketing personnel are other personnel to engage, adds Conder. 

Krause, meanwhile, believes that facility leadership should seek clinical expertise before final decisions are made.

5. Buyer beware: Don't judge rehab equipment on price alone. Other factors, such as patient safety, use and durability, are important too, says Conder.

Avoid being lured by shiny objects, she adds. “They may look impressive but may not be beneficial to the patient or utilized by the therapist,” she says. “At the end of the day, a skilled therapist with a mat table can work wonders.” 

Krause applies a simple maxim with equipment decisions: “While technology may benefit an immediate need, will it still be useful five or ten years from now? It's important to understand an investment's scalability to ensure that it will grow with your organization and adapt to the changing needs of caregivers and clientele.” 

When in doubt, seek equipment that focuses on improving ADLs and enables functional movement, Garner says, especially since improving mobility and activities of daily living are now part of the Five-Star requirements.

“Productivity is a big challenge as well, so look for tools that therapists can work one-on-one with patients,” he says.

6. Facilities on limited budgets should take heart: A careful needs assessment and consultation with a trusted therapist will maximize dollars.

The solutions may be simpler than they first appear.

“Engagement and functional use must always be the primary drivers of equipment choice,” Riccio says. “Sometimes putting away the laundry really is a better exercise than an anti-gravity treadmill.” 

Consider a “blend of no tech/low-tech/high-tech devices to serve all patient needs,” Chew adds. “If you are looking at innovative and new and pricey, the vendor should be able to assist with the ROI and talk about alternative funding.”