by Cole A. Carlson
Pressure injuries kill 60,000 people and affect up to 1/3 of wheelchair users each year, the US Department of Health and Human Services estimates. Annually, upwards of 17,000 lawsuits are directly related to pressure injuries, which are the only hospital-acquired condition experiencing an increase in rates of occurrence in the country. These events, which commonly result in additional surgeries, lengthy rehabilitation periods and further costs (beyond just financial) to the patient, are among the most preventable in a wheelchair user’s daily life.
You or one of your loved ones may have been affected by a pressure injury. These debilitating injuries can upend or even end someone’s life if not handled properly. We at Minnesota-based Tamarack Habilitation Technologies want everyone to be aware of innovations that could greatly improve wheelchair seating. But we also need to raise awareness of the obstacles one new type of seating faces.
Innovation and product improvement are often stymied by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) coding and reimbursement processes that make it difficult if not impossible for smaller businesses to successfully bring to market unique, viable, and effective medical equipment. Thus far, CMS has been unwilling to assign an appropriate code and reimbursement amount for new types of seating systems. CMS’s code definitions include strict/inflexible materials and process requirements based on existing products/technologies, and leave little room for new, more promising choices to make it into the lives of those who are continuously threatened by injuries that could be avoided. Code submissions are reviewed and judged based on interpretations of those CMS code “definitions,” often favoring designs that cater to the existing CMA language or existing products seemingly regardless of potential improvements in patient care or outcomes.
Tamarack Habilitation Technologies is attempting to address and raise awareness of this epidemic and the unfortunate, avoidable rise in pressure injuries with the introduction of its FlexForm Wheelchair Seating System. Tamarack, an international leader in designing orthotic and prosthetic components, has developed a unique seating surface that addresses friction/shear, pressure distribution, and microclimate vulnerabilities – the three primary factors of seating-related pressure injuries.
FlexForm’s design enables real-time adjustment of the seat, allowing pressure to be relieved in areas at risk for injury. The placement of GlideWear, Tamarack’s low-friction, breathable fabric, on the seat cover, reduces dangerous levels of shear and friction and enables heat and moisture to dissipate more quickly. The Tamarack team is excited about the potential advances in patient care and efficient product delivery process that FlexForm may bring to the public.
Tamarack debuted FlexForm this April at the International Seating Symposium in Pittsburgh, PA in an effort to engage with strategic partners and potential investors. But the wheelchair market’s decades-long complacency with the cushion model of seating is only one headwind that Tamarack and other medical engineering companies face.
Consumers who want better access to this technology can contact the Director of the CMS Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation | CMS), the Director of CMS Office of Burden Reduction & Health Informatics – Emerging Innovations Group (Office of Burden Reduction and Health Informatics | CMS), and Director of the CMS Center for Medicare – Technology, Coding and Pricing Group (Center for Medicare | CMS, Overview of CMS Groups | CMS). Contact information can be found at www.cms.gov
Editor’s note: Cole A. Carlson is Director of Business Development at Tamarack Habilitation.