O&P’s Relationship with Technology: It’s Complicated

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By Andrea Spridgen
Andrea Spridgen

There's no doubt that technology has had a great impact on the O&P profession, but when it comes to defining the relationship between the two, it's complicated. For every new high-tech innovation, such as the newly approved DEKA Arm System, or the latest powered lower-limb prosthesis, or hybrid orthotic device, and the excitement about their potential to increase users' activities and quality of life, there is equal anxiety about access to those devices, who is a suitable candidate, and reimbursement for providing them.

This month's issue of The O&P EDGE  looks at this relationship and its various angles. Our cover story, "Microprocessor-Controlled Knees: Evolution of a Game Changer," explores the impact of that technology since its introduction into the U.S. market 15 years ago. While it has changed the standard of care for transfemoral patients, use of this technology has not been without its challenges. User demand has grown, and research has revealed a potential for a broader spectrum of patients to benefit from these devices. But reimbursement sources still heavily scrutinize claims for this more expensive technology, and some patients are not appropriate candidates, despite their desires.

Patients' relationships with technology are complicated as well, as experts share in "High Tech, Low Tech-Appropriate Tech, the Right Solution for the Patient". High-tech devices may be a great fit for some patients, but for others, low tech is more appropriate for their lifestyles, personalities, or change tolerances, despite physical clinical indications that would suggest a higher-tech device. As John Miguelez, CP, FAAOP, points out, while there are some "really cool emerging technologies...if you put them on the wrong patient, it may lead to frustration, non-use, or even anger." Ultimately, the level of technology that's right for an individual may not be based on an objective idea of optimizing function with a high-tech device, but rather on a more holistic evaluation. This may result in the provision of a lower-tech device based on user preference that nonetheless best helps that particular person reach his or her goals.

Finally, in our Perspective piece, D. Scott Williamson, MBA, CAE, looks at another aspect of reimbursement. Williamson asks the O&P profession to be aware of changes currently being made in a state Medicaid reimbursement structure and to contemplate future repercussions of these types of trends in healthcare.

So, whether you embrace high tech, look for ways to maximize low tech, or fall somewhere in between, I hope you enjoy this issue exploring the relationship. Happy reading.