Imagine a manual wheelchair that require less than one minute to adjust. Think about a battery panel that is easily accessible, with no disassembly required. Consider a motor and gearbox that together make up 7 SKUS rather than 80.
In recent times, Sunrise Medical, Pride Mobility Products and Invacare have all made these simple improvements and adjustments to their wheelchair designs. This is done in an effort to make the wheelchairs easier and significantly cheaper to maintain, a service provided by clinicians and medical providers.
"In this environment, the lifecycle cost of the product is almost more important than the actual acquisition cost," said Brian Ellacott, vice president and general manager of Invacare North American Commercial Operations. "Serviceability is key."
Thanks to a recent surge in service costs, service calls now cost from 80 dollars to 200 dollars a visit and providers are not seeing the same reimbursements of years past. This explains why clinicians and therefore manufacturers wish to cut down on the number of service visits and want to make them as quick as possible if they must occur.
Manufacturers have also begun to incorporate common parts that work for a variety of product lines in an effort to make the service calls even easier and cheaper. Additionally, they have dedicated a lot of time and effort to creating products that require very few tools to maintain and repair.
"We spend considerable time with techs and ATPs, and in rehab facilities to find out what the pain points are," said Brent Hatch, director of product management, adult manual, for Sunrise Medical.
Manufacturers have even started working to develop products that are able to undergo repairs with the user still sitting in the chair. This is particularly great for the more complex wheelchairs.
"They don't have to take the positioning system off and they don't have to get a person who's in a chair all day out of that chair," said Ted Raquet, senior vice president of domestic sales for Pride Mobility Products.