NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Arguably all HME vendors have been impacted by supply chain constraints, but complex rehab vendors have faced additional complexities, they say.
“The typical complex rehab product we supply includes components from three to five manufacturers,” said Mike Swinford, CEO of Numotion. “It may have a base from one manufacturer and a custom molded seat from another manufacturer. The number of cases where we expect this single component to be able to deliver a chair is record high. It is beyond the challenge.
Numotion reports that approximately 25% of orders are delayed 17 days or more.
Standard locking point
Complex rehabilitation providers are also experiencing more traditional delays for products such as standard electric wheelchairs and scooters, which are more likely to be imported almost fully assembled from Asia and take up more space in expensive containers.
“The cThe complex rehabilitation industry has experienced a number of supply chain challenges, some of which include a general lengthening of product delivery times due to manufacturer labor constraints and supply chain issues. erratic supplies and even longer delays for products made largely in Asia, where ocean freight challenges are impacting,” said Darren Lowman, director of supply chain for National Seating & Mobility. “The longest delivery times currently tend to be in two categories, standard electric products and scooters, and manual wheelchairs.”
Delays caused by supply chain constraints have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and labor shortages. Numotion reports that insurers are understaffed, dramatically increasing the time it takes to go through the pre-approval process required for many complex rehab products.
“We went to a number of health plans in Q4 and asked if they would consider extending out-of-pocket expenses into Q1 knowing how many customers were impacted trying to get their products by the end of the year,” Swinford said. . “We’ve put together talking points for our customers to access their plan and request exceptions, and we’ve implemented different options for customers, including direct funding.”
Numotion is taking a number of steps to speed up the process, including switching to products from different manufacturers even in the middle of an order if necessary, Swinford says.
“We try to stay as flexible as possible,” he said. “Even when an order is 80% through the process, we can switch components. We are continually communicating with the user throughout the process about alternatives and what we are doing to address any backlog issues.
Communication and cooperation
Communication, collaboration and transparency are key, says Lowman, not only with customers but also with manufacturers.
“Our strategy for 2022 is focused on working with our suppliers/manufacturers to better anticipate our needs and ensure the timely flow of their products and parts,” he said. “It also means being very transparent with our customers about the temporal impacts of certain product selections. We have always valued clinical autonomy, ensuring that customer needs and outcomes are paramount in product selection. Going forward, we will have the added complexity of timing and availability of products and parts, while continuing to meet our customers’ needs for their mobility solutions to ensure the best results.