Clinician Talk: The Client’s Role in Evaluations

Client involvement in power mobility evaluations helps effect outcomes.

Much has been written to chronicle the trials and challenges facing the complex rehab industry. We all understand the critical nature of efficiently meeting our client’s needs in this challenging environment.

Fortunately, the easiest way to accomplish this is by doing the very thing we set out to do when we entered the rehab community. It’s achieved by putting our clients’ needs first and understanding the important role that patients play in their own evaluations.

Patient Involvement Is Key

If I have learned anything in the last decade working with clients, therapists and providers, it’s that there is one factor that rises above all others in leading to a successful outcome to a client. That factor is the client’s staying highly involved throughout the entire process.

Ensuring the client is involved helps guarantee the client’s overall physical comfort in the power mobility device that will be selected. It also greatly reduces the client’s anxiety and fosters a deeper level of trust in the rehab professionals that are working to meet his or her needs.

Whether it is a patient’s first evaluation for a power chair, or he or she is a seasoned veteran of the process, it can be challenging to open the lines of communication that are essential in providing the right solution. Some clients might lack the ability to effectively communicate what they are looking for in a power chair. Others might simply be reluctant to give their input.

However, it is up to rehab professionals to bridge any communications obstacle and engage the client in meeting their mobility requirements. The information they provide makes the biggest difference in our ability to go beyond providing adequate mobility and fully comprehensive solutions that truly improve quality of life.

A client can only get out of the process what they put in to it, which is very similar to when a client goes to therapy for rehabilitation after an injury. The client’s success is based on whether they perform their exercises correctly and consistently. If they are discharged and do not perform the home exercises given to them by the therapist, their chances of getting back to 100 percent function prior to injury decreases dramatically.

Encouraging Involvement

As rehab professionals, there are many things that can be done to ensure that clients are getting the full benefit of the equipment available to them. But the most important step is making sure that the client remains highly involved in the evaluation and understands the critical role they play in finding the best solution. There are a few key ways in which we can achieve this:

Listen. To begin with, encourage the clients to tell you what they want out of their power mobility devices. What would they like to be able to do that they currently cannot? Ask them how they currently perform ADLs and what level of assistance they require. Ask patients about other equipment they might have used. Understanding someone’s likes and dislikes will help during the evaluation of new equipment.

Investigate. Make sure to take an active look at your clients’ daily lives and activities. Whether they are attending class, going to work, or participating in their favorite interests, learning what your clients do and enjoy goes a long way in fully meeting their needs. When applicable, a caregiver can often provide vital information about the client’s daily routine. Caregivers also can be great assets in helping a client understand why they might need a certain type of product or accessory.

Illustrate. Explain concepts in ways that clients will understand. If you tell clients why they need certain products, and how and why those products will be beneficial to their well being, they are more likely to accept it as a viable solution. Explaining costs and what their insurance covers will help the client better understand their options and assist them in making an informed decision.

Assessing Involvement

A very simple way to judge whether a client was properly involved in getting the proper mobility device is to find out if he or she is using it on a consistent basis. If a client returns home with a power mobility device that he or she is unhappy and uncomfortable with, he or she might not use it, and that will not provide the client any benefit at all.

Our ultimate goal is to not only ensure that the client is using the product as intended, but that they are enjoying all of the benefits a product has to offer. If successful, the information provided by their participation will have a profound impact in all aspects of their daily activities.

It’s more important than ever to ensure that when we perform a mobility evaluation, we get it right the first time. We need to be precise and efficient in our process.

If the client is involved in the mobility evaluation, being able to address all of the other factors pertaining to the product they need becomes much easier and the odds of it being successful greatly increase.

This article originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Jay Brislin, MSPT, is the director of Quantum Product and Clinical Development for the Quantum Rehab division of Pride Mobility Products (Exeter, Pa.). He can be reached via email at or by phone at 800-800-8586.

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