Problem Solvers

Special Delivery: Bed Installation

Delivering beds and support surfaces can be costly. How can providers fine-tune the process?

HME providers must carry many burdens, both figuratively and literally. One of those literal burdens is the delivery of beds and support surfaces. The size, weight and cumbersome aspect of beds, as well as installation time, can make delivery an especially difficult process. The solution might be to deploy more than one field service person or driver to ensure a safe, capable installation, but that racks up additional cost.

Fortunately various HME product advances and features have made the process easier and safer, typically allowing a single driver to perform a delivery and installation of a bed and support surface. Moreover, these product enhancements and innovations can help the provider not only avoid headaches, but ensure the installation is optimal for the patient, too.

Bed Innovations

“The first thing, which has been an industry standard for some time now, was the advent of the split-spring design for homecare beds,” says Mike Sedlak, group product manager for Homecare Beds and Therapeutic Support Surfaces at HME manufacturer Invacare Corp. “It really wasn’t that long ago that beds used to be of a solid construction.”

Sedlak says Invacare innovated the split-spring design to enable one driver to carry a bed into a person’s home and safely navigate halls, doorways and stairs to set it up inside. The approach caught on, Sedlak says, and various manufacturers then adopted and incorporated the split-spring design into many beds.

Another enhancement to homecare beds that Invacare recently debuted (and this time patented) are universal bed ends, Sedlak says. Using this design, one set of bed ends can be used at either end of the bed.

“In the past, the drivers had to be very aware that they are grabbing specifically a head section and a foot section,” he says. “There is a screw that turns off of a drive shaft, and if you get two head sections, you will get the two components working in opposite directions.”

By using universal ends, the provider can steer clear of costly mistakes that could send a driver back to the warehouse to pick up the correct component, not to mention a bit of embarrassment at the patient’s home.

“These drivers can drive fairly long distances for a setup and you want to make sure they have everything they need the first time the get out there for the setup,” he says.

That said, while Invacare’s bed ends might be universal on Invacare beds, providers still want to make sure that they are using common components for beds. A lot of manufacturers make beds that have parts that can be interchangeable with other manufacturers’ beds in a pinch. Sedlak advises against this.

“You want to be careful that you’re not doing that as a provider, because they’re not necessarily designed to work together, even though they might fit together,” he says. “The way we use certain components is that they are all engineered to work together.”

Site Assessments

Another good practice is to try and perform a home assessment to uncover any possible complications that might arise during installation. Sometimes this is not possible, but if the provider can do it, an initial review might uncover unforeseen difficulties or obstacles.

This can be can be especially important when it comes to bariatric beds. The provider will not only want to ensure safe access, but that the floor under consideration will safely support the weight of both patient and bed.

“A home assessment could be vital in a number of ways,” Sedlak says. “Not only because of where you’re going to put the bed in the house, but how you’re going to get it into the house. You want to know at the outset that you have access to get the bed in and that there is enough space in the house.

“And one of the more important ones is the electrical considerations,” he adds. “You want to make sure that you have proper access to outlets, that you’re not going to be overloading an outlet, and that you’re not going to be routing a cord in a manner that’s unsafe.”

There also is the support surface to keep in mind when it comes to power. Low-air-loss mattresses and alternating pressure surfaces will need safe power access for their control units. This includes making sure the power outlet is not attached to a light switch; a common problem, says Jim Acker, vice president of sales and marketing for manufacturer Blue Chip Medical Products.

“The number one problem we encounter is that the unit isn’t plugged in, and the number two problem is that it is plugged into wall that doesn’t have juice,” he says.

Support Surfaces

Support surface installation is more concerned with inflating the surface, since they are easily carried. Group 1 surfaces using an overlay can simply be laid on the bed, and Group 2 low-air-loss systems fill up quickly since they are blower-based. To ease installation of Group 2 alternating pressure surfaces, a quick-fill inflater — essentially a hand-held blower — can fill up the support surface in just a couple minutes, rather than waiting for the control unit to fill it up.

“It’s pretty common out there, but a lot of delivery people don’t keep them in their vans,” Acker says. “Ninety percent of the time to install is waiting for the unit to fill up. So we recommend our providers keep them in all their delivery trucks.”

A quick-fill inflater also comes in handy when the support surface needs to be removed from the home, Acker adds: “All you do is turn is turn the quick-fill inflater around and it will suck the air right out of the mattress.”


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

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