Building a Case for Power

Edition: December 2002 - Vol 10 Number 12
Article#: 1382
Author: Jon Wells

Acording to the 2000 Census, the number of people in the United States with some form of disability is 54 million, and the number with a severe disability is 27 million. In addition, the Census Bureau cited the two highest causal factors of disabilities to be arthritis or rheumatism, and back or spine injuries -- both of which can cause patients extreme difficulty when getting on or off an exam table. What’s more, 50 percent over the age of 65 have some form of disability. With the average age of patients on the rise, it is more likely that patients will need assistance in accessing an exam table. In addition, an increasing number are likely to use wheelchairs, walkers or require staff assistance.

For all these reasons and more, it is essential that providers consider the changing needs of their patients, as well as the long-term effects of ergonomically incorrect equipment on themselves and their staff. The distributor sales rep can play an important role in helping them do just that. In fact, Midmark considers their help essential in changing the way the industry looks at power tables. It is our company’s intent to make all exam rooms accessible for every patient. Given today’s tax laws, regulatory requirements and patient needs, there’s no reason why physicians can’t do so, particularly with our new power table, the Ritter by Midmark 222 High-Low Power Examination Table.



Research

In May 2000, Midmark assembled a team of individuals to investigate the power examination table market. They began by researching current statistics on patient and physician needs in regard to table heights, and identifying and analyzing current products that promote low height for easy patient access. The team also researched doctor and patient comfort and efficiency factors. Among those factors, the team looked at statistics regarding the number of U.S. residents with some level of disability, as well as the increasing age of the general population. These statistics, along with physician and patient input, determined the need for new product development in this segment.

The team found that physicians are typically very busy and often have double-booked days and long hours of patient care. Traditional box tables have led to many workplace injuries for doctors and their staff. The inability to easily maneuver in the examination room has caused doctors to alter their work style over time, which can result in repetitive motion injuries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that 1.8 million U.S. workers develop work-related musculoskeletal disorders. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare-related services reported over 59,000 musculoskeletal injuries in 1999. The majority of the injuries reported were strains and sprains to the back and shoulder caused by overexertion in lifting, and they resulted in the employee being off work for several days.

Physicians need to be comfortable in their environment in order to provide efficient patient care. The term “efficient patient care” not only refers to the direct interaction with the patient, but also the efficiency of the practice overall. Implementing power tables makes more efficient use of the office’s staff and time. Both doctors and nurses spend less time positioning patients, and experience less wear and tear to their bodies. The ability to work either standing up or sitting becomes an option with power tables, regardless of the height of the physician.



ADA Compliance Research

The Code of Federal Regulations from the ADA Standards for Accessible Design was created to implement Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12181). Title III prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public accommodations and requires places of public accommodation and commercial facilities to be designed, constructed, and altered in compliance with the accessibility standards established in the Standards for Accessible Design document.

According to the Code, no individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any private entity who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.

From this document, Midmark was able to make a deduction regarding the proper height for transfers to and from a wheelchair. Based on information provided in the Code for the correct height of water closets – 17 inches to 19 inches (430 mm to 485 mm) measured to the top of the toilet seat – Midmark established an 18-inch low height position for the new table.



The Table

The result of all the planning and research is the most recent addition to Midmark’s power examination table line -- the Ritter by Midmark 222 High-Low Power Examination Table.

The table lowers to 18 inches from the floor, making it easy for disabled, pregnant and elderly patients to get on, without putting excess strain on themselves, the doctor or the staff. What’s more, the low height of the table allows nearly all patients to sit with their feet still on the floor, eliminating strain on their back and legs.

For physicians, the 37-inch height provides optimal positioning for almost any procedure or exam. With optional pelvic tilt, physicians can conduct a pap smear without stressing their back. In addition, the Exam Assistant™ fold-down drawer system solves the “point of care” issues incurred during pelvic exams, when the patient is in the uncomfortable lithotomy position. In addition, considering tax credits and depreciation, most physicians can buy these tables for just about $1,500 out of pocket. (See related table.)

We estimate that 93 percent of exam rooms are manual, and all require unnecessary work for mobility-impaired patients. It’s true that reps will need some new skills converting manual rooms to power. Yet, with the educational tools at their disposal, we believe they will find it second nature to convince doctors who are used to buying box tables to utilize the benefits of power.



Jon Wells is the director of marketing for Midmark’s medical products division. He is responsible for driving product strategy, development and marketing within the division.