Last month we posted about the importance of educating referral sources and communities on the importance of early lymphedema diagnosis and treatment. Equally important is the actual creation and marketing of a lymphedema program.
Many different kinds of swelling can be treated in the same manner as a lymphedema diagnosis, and the program can also be marketed as swelling management services. There are a few basic elements to consider, according to Rehab Director Jennifer Fuentes, PT:
- Certification – The lymphedema training received in PT and OT school is not enough to provide the best treatment for patients with lymphedema. Lymphedema programs should be managed by a certified lymphedema therapist for the best chance of identification and adequate care.
- Bandages – Finalize a process for patients to obtain compression bandages and compression garments before officially rolling out a program. Options for this include working with the local hospital supplies department, durable medical equipment (DME) companies, local pharmacies and online distributors. Bandages are not a covered part of lymphedema treatment. Depending on the rules of the facility, patients will pay out-of-pocket for bandages, or the facility will absorb the cost.
- Scheduling – Plan for extended scheduling needs. Lymphedema patients can take a long time to treat, especially when multiple limbs are involved.
- Materials – Create marketing forms and educational materials for both patients/caregivers and providers.
- Referrals – Present in-services to local providers. Help them understand that early intervention is best. In addition to general providers, look to cardiologists, podiatrists and those who provide wound care services. Once you have a few success stories with patients, the word will spread even more, bringing in more referrals.
The satisfaction of a well-planned lymphedema program will be felt not only by the patient community, but the rehab departments and treating therapists as well.