The Internet is constantly evolving as a dynamic source for all types of products. It seems you can find anything and everything online, with hundreds of thousands of websites to choose from, including eBay, Amazon, Nextag and other retail portals.
There is however a big difference when searching and researching health care products, especially durable medical products such as off-the-shelf type orthopedic braces and supports.
Knee braces, especially the more rigid type of braces typically have been sold directly through the physician's office, local medical supply company or through specialty sources such as Orthotist's and Prosthetic device companies.
These sources provide direct continuity of care, ensuring the patient gets the proper brace, fitting and follow-up. The patient benefits in having their insurance company assist in the costs of these sometimes expensive devices.
There is however, a growing demand for other sales channels for these types of knee braces. Changes in the healthcare industry have made many of these braces non-reimbursable. Increasing deductibles have also placed many of these products out of the reach of the consumer.
The internet provides a wealth of information about knee braces, ankle braces and back braces, with thousands of websites to choose from. Consumers are looking online to save money on these expensive devices, and there is much confusion as to where to purchase these braces, and is it safe to buy them online.
Remember, that these are medical devices, and have a medical purpose. Choosing a knee brace without your doctor's input, or advise from your therapist or other health care professional can put you at risk for injury, or just getting the wrong brace.
There is nothing wrong with purchasing a knee brace online, and for that matter, ankle braces, wrist braces and back braces. Although companies that sell these products online can't and should not recommend a brace for you, they should have the basic knowledge to assist you in finding the right brace for your condition.
There are a couple of do's and don'ts when searching online for these types of specialty braces.
1) If you can't speak with someone on the other end, stay away. If you get an answering machine, you can be sure that company has neither the time or resources to assist you.
2) If you can't find an address or phone number, stay away. If there is a PO Box to respond to you can be sure this is not a real company, but an individual selling online.
3) Check the website credentials. How long they have been in business, BBB rating, Google Trusted Store and other awards that tell the consumer that this company has a good history of customer service.
4) Check the website structure. Is it organized for easy navigation, or does it look like it was thrown up in a day, with poor images, no product information and no customer feedback.
These do's and don'ts can also apply to other online businesses, but when dealing with medical products like knee braces, neck collars and back supports, it is wise to seek out companies that can help you choose the proper knee brace, given the number of products found online.
Looking for the best price works sometimes, but remember that if most of the online companies are selling it for the same price, and you find someone much cheaper, there usually is a reason, and you will pay for it later. Is it worth it when it comes to your health?
One of the premiere websites that sell Knee Braces for ACL tears, Meniscus injuries and provides a wealth of information on other functional knee braces is The Brace Shop/Knee Braces.
By Dr. Kenneth Shapiro