Ten Points to Consider When Selecting an Orthotics Lab

1. Pinpoint Accuracy:
There are several considerations when it comes to accurately producing foot orthotics. The lab must have the ability to read and successfully interpret the contours of the subject’s feet as well as the instructions and objectives of the doctor or therapist. Additionally, the lab must have the tools, equipment and technology to accurately manufacture the specified product. Prefabricated components or off-the-shelf orthotics may achieve some correction, but usually they do not solve the problem completely. Only means of achieving optimal correction are through labs with the capacity to produce orthotics which are designed and shaped to the unique characteristics of the subject’s feet. Finally, the materials from which the orthotics are produced must be durable if the correction is to be maintained for any length of time.

2. Multiple Means of Receiving Prescriptions:
A credible lab must be able to receive information from doctors and therapists in whatever format best serves the subject who is being fit for orthotics. In some cases, this means making an impression in a foam box. In other cases it may be practical to fit the individual with a plaster cast. Yet, other clinics may have the technology to scan the subject’s feet and transmit the data directly to the lab. Doctors and therapists have a variety of circumstances to consider when fitting a subject’s feet for orthotics. The means they choose for fitting, whether it’s foam impressions, plaster casts or scans, often depends on the situation. Therefore, the orthotics lab must have the ability to accommodate all of them.

3. Capacity for Quick Turnaround:
Pain relief and therapy cannot take place until the subject receives his or her orthotics. Although much is involved in producing custom orthotics, prompt delivery is still utmost in importance. An orthotics lab should be organized and staffed in a way that streamlines the production process. Ideally, the lab should require no more than a week’s time from receipt of the prescription to shipment of the finished product.

4. Qualified Personnel:
In order to maintain high quality standards, quality orthotics labs hire and train orthotists and certified pedorthists who not only are skilled in the manufacture of orthotics, but also in the biomechanics they are designed to support. Orthotists specialize in prescription manufacturing of orthotics while Pedorthists possess the added ability to fit orthotic devices to individual foot conditions.

5. Accreditation:
An accredited lab is one that has received the stamp of approval from the industry’s board of standards. The standards board for the orthotics industry is the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics (ABC). ABC certifies individuals and accredits facilities that meet its approval based skills, education and standards criteria. North Star Lab employs certified pedorthists and is accredited by ABC.

6. Ability to Archive and Retrieve Prescriptions:
While it may not be a requirement, a lab that can store and retrieve past prescriptions is certainly an asset to the doctors and therapists it serves. The archives are a convenient backup, of course. More importantly, they provide historic information that is sometimes helpful with products and prescriptions currently being manufactured.

7. Ample Variety of Component Materials:
There are a wide variety of objectives that orthotics are designed to fulfill, which range from accommodation and comfort to biomechanical control and correction and improved athletic performance. Materials play an important role in achieving the objectives for which the orthotics are designed. There are hundreds of materials to choose from. A quality orthotics lab is knowledgeable in selecting and working with material inputs that perform best under the conditions in which the orthotics are used.

8. A Solid History of Experience:
Training and technical capabilities are extremely important, but these are no substitute for experience. Seek an orthotics lab that is staffed with experienced people who work together to provide prompt, accurate service to the foot care professionals and people they serve. Lab technicians who know how to listen and apply past experience to current situations are likely to become a vital part of a healthcare team. Having recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, North Star Lab is well-established in many foot-care clinics and therapeutic centers. Some of those clinics have been with them from the start.

9. Exceptional Service:
A knowledgeable and skilled orthotics lab ideally complements its capabilities with a high level of service, which means it is also accessible to the professionals it serves. Service is a cultural philosophy unique to every lab. Seek out a lab that places customer relationships foremost in its manufacturing process. A service-minded attitude with enhance the experience you have with the lab and quite possibly improve the quality of the products you receive.

10. Knowledgeable Advice
Experience, expertise and a service-minded attitude provide resources you won’t easily find in a reference library. A quality orthotics lab handles multiple prescriptions for multiple conditions that no one clinic may have seen. If you are fortunate enough to find an orthotics lab that is open and willingly helpful with its information, you will have available to you a resource bank of supplemental solutions and advice, often at no added expense.

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