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WesternU's Harris Family CDHP joins committee on standards for medical diagnostic equipment

by Rodney Tanaka

July 20, 2012

Read 2 mins

The Harris Family Center for Disability and Health Policy (CDHP) at Western University of Health Sciences has been named to the Medical Diagnostic Equipment Accessibility Standards Advisory Committee.

The committee advises the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) in proposing standards for medical diagnostic equipment for people with disabilities.

“”What this means is that in the next decade, you will see equipment with height adjustability and other features that offer access to more people with physical, hearing and seeing limitations,”” said CDHP Founding Director Brenda Premo, who is also assistant vice president of government issues at WesternU.

Years ago, CDHP was instrumental in advocating that the Access Board have this responsibility and also in getting government guidelines and standards established, said June Isaacson Kailes, MSW, LCSW, associate director for CDHP.

Premo and Kailes helped develop language that went into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requiring the federal government create standards for accessible medical equipment.

In March 2010, President Obama signed into law the health care bill authorizing the Access Board to develop new access standards for medical diagnostic equipment, including examination tables and chairs, weight scales, radiological equipment, and mammography equipment. The standards address independent access to, and use of, such equipment by people with disabilities to the maximum extent possible, according to the Access Board website.

Premo said that access issues changed when Kaiser Permanente was sued in 2001 after its staff failed to transfer a person from a wheelchair to an exam table. Because he was only examined in a wheelchair, his health care providers missed a slowly developing pressure sore, which led to long and expensive hospitalizations. CDHP was a consultant for Kaiser for that settlement agreement.

Kaiser agreed to use adjustable exam tables that lowered to 19 inches from the floor, Premo said.

These tables did not exist at that time, so Kaiser’s agreement created a demand for the product, which a commercial manufacturer met. Kaiser bought many of these tables.

“”It’s this imbalance of care because of physical barriers that the health care bill addresses and will eventually result in the standards that will assist people to get equitable care,”” Premo said.

CDHP is a center housed on the WesternU campus in Pomona, Calif., that improves the capabilities of health care providers to meet the growing needs of people with disabilities, increase the number of qualified individuals with disabilities who pursue careers in the health professions, and empower people with disabilities to become more vocal and active participants in their health care.

Kailes will represent CDHP on the advisory committee. She is familiar with the Access Board – she was a presidential appointee to the Board from 1995 to 2003 and served as its chair and vice chair.

“”This process brings together advocates as well as manufacturers to work together to promulgate the guidelines,”” Kailes said. “”That, in and of itself, is a critical part of the process. It will help manufacturers do a better job to ensure a much broader portion of population can actually use the critical equipment they design.””

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