Tom Borcherding on pushing envelope on innovation

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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – What got Tom Borcherding, a complex rehab veteran with decades of experience, “hooked” on LUCI? 

“The energy and excitement that this startup has,” said Borcherding, LUCI’s new senior vice president of business development. “The founder’s zest for life; his daughter’s zest for life. I wanted to be part of something special. I’ve been in the CRT field for a long time, so I wanted to do something that makes a difference.” 

Earlier this year, LUCI’s founder and CEO, Barry Dean, launched a platform that prevents wheelchair users from running into objects, alerts them to tipping danger, and protects them from steps and drop offs, inspired by his daughter Katherine, who has cerebral palsy and has used a wheelchair her whole life. 

Here’s what Borcherding had to say about the challenges of getting a product off the ground in the middle of a pandemic and why need, not coding, should be the industry’s main focus. 

HME News: You’re leading LUCI’s sales efforts. What’s job No. 1? 

Tom Borcherding: I jokingly tell people we’re a sales organization of one, which is me. I need help quickly, so job No. 1 is building a U.S. sales organization to support all the interest in LUCI that’s coming to us from users and providers and especially clinicians. This is something I’ve done in the past, especially at ROHO. I know the profile of the sales professionals that I hope will join the team at LUCI – the common skill I’m looking for is a passion for meeting the needs of users. 

HME: Have you been able to get on the road? 

Borcherding: Team LUCI has been traveling by limo buses. Barry, he found out that all these musicians in Nashville aren’t touring, so their travel buses are available. We’ve been traveling in style, hauling our equipment and being in our own bubble. As a startup, you have to get out there and engage with clinicians. It’s been a good way to get from Point A to Point B. 

HME: Another challenge to getting LUCI off the ground has to be the lack of coding and reimbursement for the platform. Currently, it’s a cash-pay item. 

Borcherding: I think the mindset that LUCI has, and it starts with Barry’s mission, is that you need to build to the need, not the code. I’ve seen too often in my career where we’ve been trying to build to the code. When you do that, you don’t push the envelope on innovation, because there’s too much risk. With any innovation in the industry, we’ve had pioneers that are willing to take a risk. 

HME: Without reimbursement, what’s the strategy for getting LUCI’s platform on as many wheelchairs as possible? 

Borcherding: You have to challenge the coding system and the way to do that is through the passion of the clinicians, and users and their families. We’re going to have to fight for reimbursement along the way and fight through appeals. It’s not an insurmountable obstacle. If gives us the chance to provide the value of the technology and build the story for the technology and how it avoids accidents. I think we’re going to have a lot of data to make a compelling case for reimbursement, and I think we will influence payers over time.