By: Julie Alley
Recently saw a “Bright Ideas” post and cartoon on LinkedIn (thanks Brent) stating how we manage and encourage bright ideas will determine the future of O&P. I have thought about the question of product and technique adoption a lot, as one of our goals is to improve the standard of care in interface designs in O&P, but more generally, improve all limb device integration.
Over the years, I have seen it is easier to ignore bright ideas or new discoveries instead of embracing them quickly. Look at Edison. Few could understand the life-altering benefits of the light bulb. And we see this time and time again. Many products take years to gain traction or adoption. So why are we so slow to move and why would someone ignore a bright area or new discovery? For me, everything comes down to motivation and if you are personally motivated to do something. So what motivates someone to disregard or pass on a big idea? Now I’m no psychologist and I don’t claim to be one, but I believe there are many possible answers. Is it pure laziness, a good enough mentality, complacency, or I’ve done it this way for so long that I don’t want to change? Is it ego or not created it here syndrome? Is it not knowing enough about something or the inability to comprehend the idea? Is it seen as helping the competition? Is it insecurities? Is it easier to try and rip it off? Is it a fear of failing? Is it a bad manager or supervisor? Is it too many distractions, the belief that it would take too long to implement, perhaps a disbelief in the benefit of the new idea or product, one not seeing it as being valuable or worth the price or investment? Is it short term vs. long term thinking, is it distractions at work or home, is it not having stake in the new idea, is it tunnel vision, is it how or what you were taught in school the dictates your world view, is it not a priority, and the list goes on. Coming from outside the industry into this industry, I quickly noticed that the value of the prosthetist is minimized and the main focus is on the components, with the threshold for success being acceptance or delivery of the device at that one moment in time, even before the patient has had ample time to test and use the device. If this is the best we can achieve, then innovation, at least in the interface will never be achieved by the masses. If the industry can look at themselves and say our high risk of falls in femoral and tibial prostheses, and low acceptance rates in upper limb, is not acceptable, then maybe there is hope. For us, biodesigns will continue as a company to push for superior interfaces, as this is the platform or core for the whole system. And we will stand with the few also pushing for improved designs, with the hope that the industy will follow. If the role of the prosthetist and interface continues to be minimized, reimbursement will continue to fall. The schools/master programs can help push the change, but if they continue to focus on the past with very little emphasis on newer designs, outcome measures, biomechanical principles, gait analysis, functional range of performance, energy expenditure, alignment, soft tissue management, etc., the future O&P clinicians, will have much to learn. And if the prosthetist doesn’t learn how to fight for their place in the system, based on an experience and expertise few other allied health professionals have, then you will be replaced. Anyone can learn how to take a few measurements and send them to fabrication. But very few can make a patient who has lost a limb feel whole again.