Why does it take so long to get a custom made wheelchair? 

This is one of the great mysteries of the world! I have been on all sides of this equation, as a customer, medical social worker and as an employee of Numotion.  Nobody is pleased with the amount of time this process can take.  I would like to try to demystify this process for you. More importantly, I want to encourage you to use your voice - which can significantly speed up the arrival of your new wheelchair. But be prepared, even when everything goes according to plans, getting a custom chair is an 11-25 week process.

Why is the process so complicated?

Complex Rehabilitation Technology (CRT) is the proper term for what most people call “custom wheelchairs.” Custom wheelchairs are only provided for people with severe disabilities and must be prescribed by a physician who has examined a person and concluded that it is medically necessary. CRT is individually configured, fitted and adjusted by a doctor, or therapist, and an Assistive Technology Professional (ATP). The evaluation can be up to 16 pages long and is extremely detailed to make sure the wheelchair created fits the person precisely.
Proper positioning in a custom wheelchair can prevent wounds and future skeletal deformities. This is the reason only highly trained professionals are involved in the process of configuring a custom wheelchair. Due to the specialized components and high level of skill required to create a custom wheelchair, the price is higher than a general wheelchair that you might see in an airport. Those wheelchairs are created to help people who can walk short distances or have a short term disability that professionals have determined will improve over time. Insurance companies require significant proof that a custom wheelchair is REALLY necessary.  It is easy to understand why they don’t want to waste resources on people that don’t need the technology, but it is frustrating. 

What can you do to help?
It is easy to say, “This is someone else’s job, so why should I be involved?”  

Reason #1:  You are the customer and what you think matters a great deal. Tell the professionals on your team to keep you informed if the process gets stalled for some reason.  For example, if your provider is waiting on a signature from your physician on a document, ask the customer care coordinator if it would be beneficial for you to call the office. There are times when I have had my doctor’s office respond to me more quickly than the wheelchair company. A courteous reminder call may be helpful.  (And take advantage of tracking apps available from providers to stay on top of your order status!)

If for some reason you received a denial, it might be helpful for you to write a letter or send an email.  It can be very powerful when the person waiting on the equipment explains their situation.  I would consult with your ATP before doing any of these things to see if they think your involvement would be helpful.  

Reason #2:  Having your new wheelchair is more important to you than it is to anyone else. Over the years I have known many, doctors, therapists, ATP’s, customer care coordinators and nurse case managers and they all want what is best for the patients they serve. You must keep in mind that even with the best intentions things get delayed. You are your own best advocate and if you stay involved in the process from the beginning you will be better informed and able to untangle possible crossed wires. 
During the insurance approval process, many documents are transferred between your doctor’s office, your insurance company, the ATP and your therapist. In each of those places there are multiple employees involved. Sometimes the documents go back and forth many times depending on what the insurance company requests and when. It is easy to see why this process can take a while, even if things go perfectly. And things rarely go perfectly!

Final Suggestions
I know things are overwhelming for any person with a new disability.  Many things in your life are changing all at one time and it is all difficult.  It can make things easier if you stay involved from the beginning. This helps ensure you are not months down the road wondering why it is taking so long for your chair to arrive. Here are a few more suggestions.
  1. Try to make phone calls personally when inquiring about your wheelchair.
  2. Keep written records of your phone calls to the insurance company and the doctor’s office. It is easy to forget the name of the person you spoke to and when.
  3. Send an email when possible to help everyone stay organized.
  4. Keep a folder of key information – your insurance details, current mobility equipment, doctor’s information, etc. – to have details available quickly should you be asked for them.
  5. If you are a Numotion Customer get the mynumotion.com app so you can follow the process on your smartphone or computer.  Click the link to get more information about the mynumotion.com app.
I also like to learn from the experience of others, as you never know what other tips and tricks you could pick up. My last piece of advice, is to be as patient and kind as possible with everyone you speak with.  Everyone’s goal is the same, to get you your specialized wheelchair as soon as possible.  If you are not getting the answers you need, be persistent. Become part of the team and play an active role in the process.  You have an important voice and you should use it!
Now go out and live your best Life Possible! If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me via social media or at lifepossiblekr@numotion.com.

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Karen Roy, Numotion Brand Ambassador

Author

Karen Roy, Numotion Brand Ambassador

Karen Roy is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 20 years of experience. Most of that time was spent as a Case Manager for an in-patient rehabilitation hospital. She was the victim of an armed robbery in 1987 and has been a wheelchair user for the last 31 years. She had 3 kids after her injury. Caroline, Austin and Joseph are all in currently attending college. As Ms. Wheelchair Louisiana Karen’s platform was “Stand for Life”. Her platform is about the use of standing technology and other devices that improve the health and well-being of people with disabilities.