Why We’re Passionate About Prosthetics for Children
It seems like common sense that if children with an upper limb difference are given access to advanced prostheses, their lives will improve. Yet bionic arms are rarely prescribed for children. And even when they are, adoption rates remain low. Why is that? And what is Unlimited Tomorrow doing to change it? Before we answer those questions, let’s understand the opportunity that advanced prosthetics for children can present.
Children with a limb difference are incredible at adapting, but can still present challenges. Prosthetics can provide assistance. This is true in both a physical and mental sense. Physically, it enables children to live a more capable life. It also helps avoid physical ailments that can result from the body having to adapt to life with only one arm. Mentally, a prosthesis can provide a boost of confidence.
The technology has existed for some time to give children advanced prosthetic limbs that can alleviate these problems. Yet that rarely happens. Instead, when children are prescribed a prosthesis, it is usually body powered — what is commonly known as a hook arm. These devices are traditionally less expensive than advanced prosthetics, but they also enable far fewer capabilities. They can lead to repetitive use pain and injuries, and can result in even worse mental stress. From a capabilities standpoint they are better than nothing, but that is not saying much.
If the technology for children to have advanced prosthetic limbs exists, why are they so rarely given access to these devices? The simple answer is cost. Advanced prosthetic arms are expensive. A bionic hand alone can cost upwards of $70,000. Due to the fact that children can outgrow these devices pretty fast, insurance companies are unlikely to offer coverage. Even if insurance does approve them, families must cover significant costs, and are left with the knowledge that these devices may only be usable for a year or so before they are outgrown. It’s a predicament that pits finances against the child’s best interests.
It shouldn’t be this way. Think of an advanced prosthetic device as you would any essential medication. You would never give less insulin, or be fine giving sub-standard insulin, to a child with diabetes. The same should be true for prosthetic devices.
Here’s what Unlimited Tomorrow is doing to make advanced prosthetics for children more attainable:
First, we’re moving away from the current model to put the power of choice in your hands. Typically, a person with a limb difference does not get to choose what device they would like. Prosthetists choose the device that has the greatest probability of being approved by the patient’s insurance. With Unlimited Tomorrow’s model, for the first time you can choose the prosthetic device that you want. This puts the ball in your court, not the insurance companies.
Second, we’ve dramatically lowered the cost of advanced prosthetics for children. By creating a new model of fitting, distributing, and manufacturing prostheses (Unlimited Tomorrow is one of the few US-based manufacturers), we’re able to offer TrueLimb for 10% of the cost of the most expensive devices. TrueLimb has been independently verified as the most affordable bionic arm on the market. With financing options available, TrueLimb can be owned for nearly $9/day.
Third, our industry-first upgrade program. We offer annual upgrades to children who outgrow their prosthetic for 50% off. That means we’ve created the only bionic arm that kids can’t outgrow. Again, it is the decision to work outside the insurance system that makes this possible. You don’t need approval from a third party or need to go through a protracted appeals process to take advantage of this opportunity. You deal directly with us — that’s it.
And finally, we’ve created a device that is made to be used. Children often experience low adoption rates of their prostheses. Research tells us there are two main reasons for this — comfort and functionality. TrueLimb weighs an ultralight 1.5 pounds. It is the lightest bionic arm available. With upper limb prostheses, weight equals comfort. Combine this with our completely personalized sockets, and you have a device that is designed to be worn comfortably for long periods of time.
But none of this matters if the device doesn’t improve functionality. With TrueLimb’s wide array of grips, intuitive control and feedback systems, and multi-day battery life, TrueLimb becomes much more than a device. It’s an extension of the self.