Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Here Comes CSUN and I Say It's All right!

I was fortunate enough to go to beautiful San Diego for the CSUN International Conference on Disability earlier this month. It's been a great trip, a great conference, and I have found some great bargains in the exhibit halls.

I spent quite a bit of time with Jason Dean Neeland with LS&S. If you don't know LS&S, they are a great company for AT. He showed me a few products LS&S carries that are just real serious AT bargains. So what kind of host would I be if I didn't bring you all info on those items?

The first thing he showed me was the Recordable Talking Alarm Clock-Pill Reminder. He called the unit the "Medi-Minder," but you can find it on their website and in their catalog as the recordable talking alarm clock-pill reminder. This is one slick clock. 

The voice on the clock is also nice and clear. It's a female voice (male voice isn't available), so if that works for you, you're set. The great thing about this clock is that it has 6 different alarms you can set. You can use these for medication times, timed prompts for activities, or whatever you want. Along with the alarms, you can record personalized, individualized messages for each alarm. So you could have a personalized alarm that reminds you to take a particular medicine at a particular time or perform a particular task at a given time. The unit is highly portable so you can take it anywhere. The unit takes batteries, but it also can use an AC adapter so it can be plugged into the wall for power. This AT bargain is a steal at $39.95 (shipping not included). If you want the AC adapter, it will cost you an additional $5.95. After having a chance to check out and play with this baby, I highly recommend it if you're in the market for a talking clock with multiple alarms. You can order the unit from LS&S.

The next nifty gadget Jason showed me was Wilson. No not a volleyball with a hand print on it, but its namesake. The Wilson is a personal voice recorder. It has two-and-a half or five hours of recording/playback time. Yes, you can double the recording time by simply flipping a switch. It's just that easy. Why the choice? It's a matter of recording quality. If you want a higher quality recording, go with the 2.5 hour setting. Need less quality but more time? The 5 hour setting is for you.

Another nifty thing about this device is that it has a very simple interface. There's only three buttons for the controls (besides the recording time, but since that's a switch not a button, we won't count it)-- one for recording messages, one for playing and pausing messages, and one for deleting messages. That's it. So if you're usually lost in the sea of buttons on most recorders, this may be one for you. It even offers a USB port so you can connect Wilson to the computer and save your messages. At only $36.95 (shipping not included), it's a pretty neat little bargain.

Conferences are usually good places to go to find show specials and other bargains, especially if exhibit hall is open free to the public. In the exhibit halls, you can test drive much of the latest and greatest in assistive technology. While not everything is $100 or less, it's still a great place to check out lots of AT, especially if you haven't seen a lot before.

If you're in the San Diego area next year and you have some time, make a point to attend the CSUN International Conference on Disability. You'll be glad you did. And while you're there, make sure you stop in and try the ribs and chicken at Phil's BBQ in Point Loma.
Bring your appetite because the eats are incredible!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Understanding "The Process" (Part 3)

Ok, so now you've talked to the doctor who agrees you can use some assistive technology (Understanding the Process Part 1) AND you've seen a licensed therapist for an evaluation for your technology (Understanding the Process Part 2). What happens next? Well, now it's time to pick your tech! Now, you're not gonna be left to your own devices. Your device selection will most likely be guided by the therapist who evaluated you and a durable medical equipment (DME) provider or salesperson. The salesperson may need to take your body measurements for AT like wheelchairs, walkers, canes, standers, and the like. You may also get the chance to pick the color of your AT, if it comes in different colors. You should ask all sorts of questions now-- What does it look like? How do I take care of it? Can I fit it in my house? How am I getting this up the stairs? How am I going to fit through the front door? How am I going to transport it? These are all questions that a good DME provider will help you answer. If you can, try to make a list of questions you may still have about the equipment. Now's the time to get them answered before everything starts showing up. Also, if part of the equipment request needs to be changed, this is the best time to do that.

Once the equipment has been chosen and everyone's happy with the recommendations, the therapist may write a Letter of Medical Necessity, or LMN. This is a very important part of the equipment request that's submitted to the funding source. It explains why you need the equipment, what benefit you'll get from it, what problems you have not using it, and how long you're expecting to use it. You should request a copy of the LMN for your records.

Once the LMN is sent to the funding source, along with the equipment quote from the DME provider, the waiting game begins. The funding source can approve the request, request additional information (not approved or denied but limbo), or deny the request. Now here's the tough part-- the response (approval, request for more info, or denial) should come in writing. It should. Doesn't mean it will. If you don't get a letter, you should contact your funding source for one (we'll talk about the importance of a case manager in another post). That's where, if you received a denial or a request for more info, you'll be given more particulars about why there is a hold-up in the request. Once you know this, you can get your team to help you fix it, if you can. If the equipment is denied because it's not a covered benefit or if what you're asking for is beyond your eligible benefits, you may need alternative funding (we'll talk about that later too).

One thing that's very important to keep in mind is that if you get a denial, you should always, always, always appeal it. If the LMN is sound with good justification for the requested equipment, you may not need to do much to win your appeal. However, in some instances, you or your therapist my need to provide additional information to support your claim.

Hopefully, you'll get an approval and there will be laughter and merriment throughout all the land! The DME provider will then deliver and fit the equipment and you will finally have your assistive technology!

Is that the end? Nope! When you schedule your delivery appointment, you should also schedule a follow-up appointment with the therapist you've been working with to get the equipment. During this follow-up appointment, the therapist can make sure all of the equipment fits properly and/or is functioning properly. This is important because if there is a problem with the prescribed equipment, the therapist can make note and see if any necessary changes can be made. This is a step most people forget and it's very important. You should try to schedule a follow-up appointment within 3 weeks of getting your equipment. Also, make sure you give your doctor's office a call to let them know you have your equipment. She may want to see you later with your equipment to see how you're doing.

There are still a lot of little things I didn't go over in "The Process," but this gives you the 3 basic steps to it. In part 4, we'll talk more about dealing with funding sources and the joy thereof!