Proving Product Efficacy in the Wake of New Technology

As the profession of orthotics and prosthetics (O&P) attempts to keep
up with technology, it is becoming a requirement for young practitioners
to have a deeper understanding of how to best utilize technological
advancements to improve lives. Rapid prototyping, 3D printing, powered
devices, and modular components are all cutting-edge and can help
provide better outcomes, but without proving their efficacy they are just
expensive gadgets.

As educators in O&P, we are working diligently to teach our students
the “why” of using technology, not just the “how”. Devices and products
that you see in this newsletter are remarkable and can be very effective
when used in the right application. As practitioners, it is our fiduciary
responsibility to be the patients’ advocate. They acknowledge us as the
experts who will recommend the most beneficial course of treatment. In
order to do this, we must be able to substantiate that the choices we make
are both effective and ethical. Recent graduates have been taught to use
evidence-based practices to justify the clinical choices they make. They
apply proven clinical techniques, empirical data from journal articles, and
data from outcome measures. This collateral will show the user and the
payer source they made the correct product selection. In order to adapt
to the evolving industry and adhere to current documentation standards,
our program teaches students how to ask the right clinical questions.
When evaluating a patient for a new device, the question is not “Can I
incorporate this new microprocessor powered foot into their prosthesis?”,
but “Why should I incorporate this product and how can I prove it will be
beneficial for the user?”

Within the new Master’s Program, students have a much deeper breadth of
knowledge in pathology, biomechanics, material science, biomechatronics,
business management and clinical evaluation skills. Students are also
repeatedly exposed to functional classifications and the role that the entire
allied health team plays in the O&P rehabilitation process. This includes
having a deeper understanding of available research and how to source
useful data that is relevant to each patient’s unique problem. Given this
structure, students work with various outcome measures and are able to
select the most appropriate measure (or group of measures) to address a
prospective patient’s situation. Anyone can perform an outcome measure,
but educated practitioners are better equipped to choose or create a
measure that will meet the needs and goals of their patient.

Regardless of the revamped O&P Master’s Program, new practitioners
entering the field will require hands-on time with patients to enhance
their professional, clinical and technical skills. As educators, it is our
hope that seasoned practitioners will share their clinical experiences
and expertise with the emerging industry leaders. In parallel, we hope
the new generation of practitioners will impart new methodologies,
techniques and perspectives so we can improve our patient’s quality of
life. Today, students emerge from the Master’s Program better equipped
to make informed, ethical decisions regarding the application of new and
innovative technology.

Mark Muller Blog About the Author:

Mark Muller, MS, CPO, FAAOP has 20 years of experience in the O&P industry as a practitioner and technician, a clinical manager, manager of Technical Services for Ossur, and as a past President of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists. He currently teaches within the O&P Program at California State University, Dominguez Hills and is active in the Academy’s Outcomes Research Committee, Lower Limb Prosthetics, and Gait Societies.

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