Dankmeyer Inc., the largest provider of orthoses and prostheses in Maryland, has an ear for patients’ requests — and they never stop coming.

“There is always a constant request to make a better limb replacement — one which is more comfortable, more durable and more like the limb that was lost,” said Mark Hopkins, president and CEO; who was joined by Joseph DeLorenzo, COO; and Barbara DeLorenzo, accounting manager for Dankmeyer. “Technology has been able to provide much of that,” said Hopkins. “The biggest changes have come from advances in prosthesis technology and materials.”

The three executives collaborated in describing the company’s culture, growth and membership in the Central Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

“We have grown from the days where devices were heavy and cumbersome, made with wood, leather and steel, to today’s advancements where lightweight devices are made of materials such as carbon and epoxy for sockets and feet, titanium components, silicone liners for skin protection and specialized suspension techniques that allow for improved movement and comfort,” they explained. “The advancement of microprocessor technology for prosthetic knees, prosthetic feet, prosthetic hands and prosthetic elbows is just amazing.”

Orthoses — custom-designed external devices such as braces and splints used to control or counteract the effect of an actual or developing deformity — have advanced as well, with microprocessor knee joints, and lightweight yet strong and flexible carbon and epoxy materials. “These advancements in technology have helped patients walk better and longer than the older version of metal and leather braces attached to the shoe,” said the team.

Building Community Trust

Dankmeyer, known for its community involvement, has gradually and quietly become a trusted presence throughout the state and even nationwide. This involvement grew gradually, said the team.

“Sixty years ago, people with disabilities were not looked upon favorably. They were not hired due to their disabilities; they were not promoted. They did their best to hide their problem, whether it be missing a limb or having a limp,” they said. “Today the view about disabled individuals has changed drastically for the better. We have always fostered partnerships and relationships with local hospitals, physicians and therapists.”

This has led to teaching opportunities within hospitals, which leads to colleges needing more classes and programs. More college students than ever are interested in the field of prosthetics and orthotics, and Dankmeyer often gets requests from college students to visit and shadow at its facility for a day to get an idea of what is happening in the field. High schools and grade schools also reach out.

Collaboration to the Core

From Dankmeyer’s perspective, “multi-disciplinary” refers to a collaboration, and a medical team with the patient at the center: patient-centered care.

“The goal of multi-disciplinary collaboration is to discuss and come up with a comprehensive care plan with many views for a specific patient, to work together to figure out how best to help the patient achieve his or her goals,” said the team. “This includes determining the best device for the patient, as well as what physical or occupational therapy treatments are needed.”

Patient-centered care also includes follow-up with the patient to see if adjustments need to be made. “It also helps when all the professionals who are working with the patient are seeing the patient together at one time,” said the Dankmeyer leaders. “Having a collaborative team working together to answer questions about a wound, limb loss, therapy and the appropriate device helps to achieve a positive outcome for the patient.”

The typical core multi-disciplinary team includes a physician, physical therapist or occupational therapist, and a prosthetist or orthotist. Some settings and situations also include nurses, rehabilitation psychologists, social workers and other specialists.

Dankmeyer has several research projects in the works, and all are focused on a team approach to patient-centered care. “Several of them involve digital fabrication and our plans to move our clinical practice to a primarily digital and collaborative platform,” said the Dankmeyer team. “This involves all aspects of our practice and would include mobile apps, web-based portals, paperless medical records, digital body scanning and direct digital fabrication.”

Looking Ahead, and Saving on Energy Costs

As Dankmeyer looks ahead, the team wants to fully develop their mission to enrich the lives of all they serve by creating a true business model for all four of their primary objectives: patient care, research and development, education and business, and process effectiveness.

Dankmeyer joined the Central Maryland Chamber of Commerce after hearing about the cost savings on gas and electric bills through the chamber’s energy cooperative. “We have been a part of the co-op for many years, and although we have not taken advantage of many of the networking opportunities the chamber has to offer, we like being a part of the chamber,” said the team. “We especially like being kept informed about what is happening in the Baltimore-Washington area business community and knowing we are a member of a great organization.”