Posts Tagged ‘wheelchairs’

Cyborgs and workers comp

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016



We’re looking forward to the workers’ comp age of the cyborgs and it looks as though we are getting closer.

Just in case you are sketchy on just what a cyborg is, here’s a refresher from Wikipedia:

“A cyborg (short for “cybernetic organism”) is a being with both organic and biomechatronic body parts. The term was coined in 1960 by Manfred Clynes and Nathan S. Kline.

The term cyborg is not the same thing as bionic, biorobot or android; it applies to an organism that has restored function or enhanced abilities due to the integration of some artificial component or technology that relies on some sort of feedback.”

We are happy to see Roberto Ceniceros championing some exciting mobility technologies in his recent column at Risk & Insurance: The Case for Exoskeletons. He talks about how they are helping some patients with spinal cord injuries to stand up and walk.

“Exoskeletons are assistive devices often described as “wearable robots” or “Segways with legs.” Since 2014, the Food and Drug Administration has approved two models for personal use, including one earlier this year.

Some workers’ comp insurers have already approved a few claims for the motorized devices and the cost of training. Other underwriters have declined to fund them.

The battery-powered devices cost at least $80,000 plus additional training. Safety questions remain and some doctors who agree on the medical benefits they provide are still wary of certifying them as “medically necessary.”

An accompanying article – The New Normal by Susannah Levine – talks more about how advanced care techniques and technologies are helping workers with brain and spinal cord injuries get back to living full lives. She interviews several people who work with catastrophically injured workers talk about what they are seeing in the field.

Also related, NPR Shots features a story on iBOTS or standing wheelchairs: A Reboot For Wheelchair That Can Stand Up And Climb Stairs. These promising chairs were invented by Dean Kamen and although beloved for the few who had them, they went out of production in 2009. But there is hope for a comeback:

“Toyota announced this year that it’s bankrolling a reboot of the iBOT, which the machine’s inventor, Dean Kamen, says will allow him to make some improvements.

“With advances in computers, the advances in solid-state gyros and electronics … we can take a hundred pounds out of it. We can take a lot of cost out of it. We can improve it,” he told NPR.

Kamen is widely known as the inventor of the Segway, which was actually a byproduct from development of the iBOT. The first iteration of the wheelchair had a $25,000 price tag — too high even for the department of Veterans Affairs in most cases. Most veterans who had iBOTs got them from veterans charities, and all but a few are now sitting in the garage, with nowhere to service them.”

The story also interviews Gary Linfoot, a former Army helicopter pilot, who talks about how the iBOT changed his life.

We’ve been posting about mobility devices and assistive technologies over the years – see Make way for the cyborgs: robotic mobility devices. We’re excitied to see the renewed interest in iBOTs and the progress of other devices that help the disabled and the injured lead more functional lives. Bring on the cyborgs!

Thanksgiving Cavalcade Of Risk, social media, pigeon poop & more

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

For your biweekly risk roundup, check out the Thanksgiving Cavalcade Of Risk posted by Louise at Colorado Health Insurance Insider. Louise always does a great job curating the carnivals.
Is claim frequency on the upswing? – At Comp Time, Roberto Ceniceros says that claims data gathered by Liberty Mutual Group shows frequency trending up.
Another extension for Medicare Secondary Payer requirementsNational Underwriter reports that The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has agreed to delay certain mandatory reporting requirements for workers’ compensation cases under the Medicare Secondary Payer law until January 2012. These requirements had previously been extended to January 2011. The exemption is for liability claims that do not involve on-going medical responsibility, according to officials at the American Insurance Association.
Wheelchair checklist – at Complex Care Blog, Zack Craft offers checklist for wheelchair accessibility in the home for adjusters, nurse case managers and others who are involved in managing the care of injured workers. It’s intended to be used as a starting point for a review at the onset of a claim to to ensure the claimant’s needs are met and to minimize costs and legal issues over the life of the claim.
10 years of preventing needlestick injuries – Over at The Pump Handle, Liz Borkowski informs us that it is the 10th anniversary of the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act. Her post includes links to current standards as well as an update of progress since the act’s passage.
Collision course At Today’s Workplace, Roger Bybee has posted a great article on an issue that is heating up: NFL Collision: Management Control vs. Player Safety. He tackles the issue of chronic brain injuries vs an industry with a culture that has touted its violent collisions as a feature. One interesting aspect that Bybee points out is that as advanced helmets got harder, the collisions became more dangerous, not less.
Cool tool of the week – If you’ve been frustrated that you can never access American Medical Association studies, research, and news directly, there’s some good news. Last week, the AMA announced it will open its 10 years of American Medical News archives to the general public. They say: “It represents a rich resource on issues confronting physicians and trends in medicine. Content includes in-depth reporting on the business and regulatory sides of health care, practice management and hot issues in public health and patient care.”
Pigeon poop safety – We admit that pigeon poop is a safety hazard we have never given much thought to, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an important issue. Safety Daily Advisor recommends proper personal protective equipment to protect workers from exposure to serious conditions, including histoplasmosis and cryptococcosis.
Florida’s Sinkhole Belt – OK, it’s not comp-related – at least not so far, but Emily Holbrook of Risk Management Monitor has a fascinating post on how Florida sinkhole claims are skyrocketing. “According to a new state report, for the years 2006 through 2010, sinkhole claims have cost Florida property insurers $1.4 billion — a number that could reach $2 billion by the end of this year.” She links to the state report and a video clip that offer more info about this problem which is one of the state’s major premium cost drivers. Yikes. (We confess that we have been inordinately fascinated with sinkholes since seeing reports of this Guatemalan monster last spring.)
Tweet this – Claire Wilkinson of III’s Insurance Industry Blog posts about a recent research report that notes a big uptick in Fortune-500 insurers who are using Twitter – up from 13 in 2009 to 20 in 2010. That’s either a sign that Twitter is here to stay or that it has jumped the shark, you be the judge. If you aren’t on Twitter yet, what are you waiting for? The following video is more than a year old so already outdated, but it is elucidating about the speed of change in the way we are communicating.

Hi-tech wheelchairs improve life for the disabled

Monday, January 14th, 2008

If you haven’t seen some of the recent progress being made in wheelchair technology, you may be in for surprise. This feature from deputydog, a “cool and interesting things” weblog, features photos, video clips and links to various hi-tech wheelchairs. While some selections fall more under the category of “personal transport systems” than wheelchairs, most are designed to offer a better experience for disabled persons in various ways:

  • Better mobility – affording the user access to uneven terrain and non-paved surfaces, as well as the ability to maneuver curbs and stairs
  • Smaller footprint – reducing the size of wheelchairs to make them easier to navigate through normal doors and and fit better in public spaces
  • Better balance – improving stability and allowing users to be more agile in navigating turns
  • Better ergonomics – allowing a user to switch heights to experience the world at eye level, or to lower seat height to fit under standard tables and desks

One of the most exciting developments is the iBOT Mobility System based on the same technology as the Segway. Its development came about as a partnership between Dean Kamen’s research firm and Johnson and Johnson’s Independence Technology division. It is a four-wheeled chair, but it can convert to and operate on two-wheels. We’ve seen this chair being demonstrated at industry trade shows and an immediate sense of empowerment is conveyed when a user switches from normal use to two-wheeled eye-level use – it’s quite remarkable. The iBOT can also maneuver curbs and stairs. Sensors and gyroscopes give the chair stability and balance. If you haven’t see these in operation, you might enjoy some of the videos showing the iBOT in operation.
Medgadget (which, incidentally is a very cool weblog to visit every now and again for the latest in medical technology) recently reported on the NOA wheelchair from Tekniker-Ik4, which features ” …additional functions which go beyond the mere transport of users and aimed at facilitating the activities of their daily lives.” One of the goals was to design a chair that would function as a single purpose chair since many users have two chairs designed to meet the differing needs of internal and external use. The design also allows expanded vertical positioning, giving the user the ability to reach high or low objects, to converse at various heights, and to facilitate transfers at different heights.
There is even hope on the horizon that may revolutionize life for some of the profoundly disabled who have been largely immobile. Wired reports on the development of a wheelchair that reads your mind, a thought-controlled robotic wheelchair for disabled patients who suffer from disease or injury that leave them unable to move. This initiative is being developed in Spain and the first working prototype is expected in 2008 or early 2009. Here’s more information on how thought-controlled wheelchairs work.

With the number of disabled veterans returning from war, there is, unfortunately, a growing market for assistive technologies so we can expect to see advances in wheelchairs, prosthetics, and other device designed to help the disabled lead a more functional life.

The Job Accommodation Network has an accommodation and compliance guide for employers for Employees Who Use Wheelchairs (PDF), as well as an accomodation process flow chart (PDF). Also, the The Wheelchair User’s Work Environment has some practical tips for improving wheelchair access at work.