Cautious Optimism or Full Steam Ahead?

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By Karen Henry
Karen Henry

U.S. small businesses were slightly more optimistic in January—but still depressed. This is the summation of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Research Foundation's February 2010 Quarterly Report. The Index of Small Business Optimism gained 1.3 points in January—the first gain in three months and the highest rating in 16 months. In its summary, the NFIB states, "Small business owners entered 2010 the same way they left 2009—depressed. The quarterly index readings have been below 90 for seven quarters, indicative of the severity and pervasiveness of this recession."

Given that small business "creates over two-thirds of private sector new jobs," according to the NFIB, economists are keeping a close watch on this index. And while it seems that healthcare is somewhat sheltered from the impact of the recession, healthcare sectors like O&P are experiencing trickle-down effects: patients are delaying costly replacements and are instead looking for ways to extend the life of their prosthetic and orthotic devices.

The impact of the recession—coupled with the uncertainty of healthcare reform—might lead an O&P business owner to adopt a cautious, wait-and-see approach. However, when The O&P EDGE asked leading O&P business professionals for their advice, the message was clear: "doing nothing is no longer an option." This month, The O&P EDGE turns its focus to the impact of the economic recession and provides a comprehensive list of tips that O&P businesses can try using to survive tough times and retain prosthetics patients for life. We're also pleased to present the first exclusive quarterly update from the National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics & Prosthetics (NAAOP).

United Under Pressure

During tough economic times, the tendency is to hunker down and protect your own. On January 12, the O&P community turned this model on its head, as all sectors of the O&P profession turned their attention outward and began to pool their resources to help the Haitian population recover from the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and left an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 new amputees in its wake. In our Industry Review section, we document a sampling of the O&P efforts to date.

Rather than diving in with a Band-Aid solution, it's clear that the strategy being formed is based on creating a sustainable solution to address the immediate and future mobility challenges of what is being called "a generation of amputees" in Haiti. To say that there is much work to be done is an unfortunate understatement, but I have no doubt that the O&P community is more than up to the challenge. Stay tuned to the Hot Off the Press section of oandp.com and to The O&P EDGE for the latest updates and information about how you can help.

Karen Henry