Think of Yourself As a Customer, Not a Patient
AND MEETING YOUR
NEEDS/// SOPHIA BONG Waking up from
Innovative Health - Fall 2017
an injury to a
terminology and titles being thrown at
you can be overwhelming to the average
There never seems to be sufficient
guidance to encourage self-advocacy.
And it is easy to fall into a submissive
position of doing what others think is
best for you. There seldom is a showcase
or checklist of necessary priorities, since
everyone’s injuries, recovery, medical
supplies and necessary services are
unique to each individual.
The best things to do are become
educated about your injury and your
body’s response as it recovers; and
remember that you are a customer, not
only a patient.
When you have to fight for every shred
of adaptive equipment or rehabilitation
visits, there is nothing more infuriating
than dealing with marketing people who
seem tone-deaf to your specific needs.
It is rare to find someone as passionate
about his or her job as you are about
living a full and independent life!
Self-advocacy requires a constant level
of vigilance that can be intimidating
at first. But when you realize that your
injured body is the only one you have,
and that there are multiple durable
medical equipment (DME) suppliers and
therapy companies, you must become
empowered to take ownership, become
a captain and build your team.
Consider your interactions with
suppliers, vendors and/or providers
as an interviewing process. Embrace
the necessary phone calls, e-mails and
interactions, educating yourself on your
choices. Realize you are separating the
nine-to-fivers from the people who care
and deserve a position on your team.
This isn’t to say be rude or burn bridges
that you may need later, but rather to
urge polite persistence and expectation
of good service. Building relationships
and cultivating communication will allow
you to learn more about the options
available to meet your unique needs.
Get to know your local representatives of
equipment manufacturers at expos, trade
shows and conferences. They will have
in-depth knowledge of the idiosyncrasies
of their specific products and they usually
do not work with individual or exclusive
Another suggestion is to schedule
appointments when ordering new
equipment from your wheelchair seating
specialist and/or your prosthetics and
orthotics equipment suppliers—always
with your physical and/or occupational
therapist involved. Further, try to conduct
team meetings with all your providers
periodically, to make sure everyone is
on the same page and understands your
goals and needs, as well as their roles in
helping you achieve them.
Another resource to call upon is your
community. Many times, people with
disabilities avoid other people with
disabilities as they fight to avoid being
tagged by the very stereotypes they
themselves once had regarding people
with disabilities prior to their own injuries.
Realize that there is knowledge in
sharing experiences. Why reinvent the
wheel, when you can progress quicker
with an advanced learning curve? Peer
connections are crucial in navigating
the quality of products and services. It
expedites your own evolution from naïve
patient to informed customer. You can
get the benefits of all their experience
without having to suffer the setbacks.
The bottom line: try to think of yourself
in these transaction and situations as a
customer, not a patient. Interview, ask
questions, educate yourself and build
your team. Providers may come and
go out of your life, but your physical/
cognitive challenges are real.
Develop your skills, connections and
resources. This may seem daunting
when you are first starting out, but
it gets easier. Make your dollars and
time count. Transform yourself into
an informed customer with plenty of
negotiating power. Pretty soon the sense
of empowerment will become less of a
struggle...and more of a lifestyle.
E-mail to Sophia
Bong at Sophia@
LEFT A wheelchair seating
specialist consults with a client
at STAR Rehab.