ATG Rehab sends ATP to southeast Alaska

Monday, September 12, 2011

PRINCE OF WALES, Alaska - A recent 1,351-mile trek into southeastern Alaska highlighted the difficulties mobility providers face in serving rural markets.

"As you can imagine, there's some serious challenges," said Cody Verrett, vice president of sales and marketing for ATG Rehab.

A deal with the local health center sends ATG Rehab up to Ketchikan on a quarterly basis, since there are no ATPs in the region. However, when patient needs arise between visits, the provider must either troubleshoot over the phone, videoconference with the patient and health care staff, or make a special trip up to assist the patient.

In August, a patient there with ALS using a Q6 Edge reported his disease had progressed to the point where he could no longer use the joystick or control seating functions.

ATG Rehab ATP Derek Kruse flew from Portland, Ore., to Craig, Alaska, before continuing on to Prince of Wales, Alaska. Kruse switched out controls on the wheelchair and educated the patient on his new wheelchair before making the trip back to the continental United States.

"We didn't want to leave him in a situation where he didn't have service," said Verrett. "We stepped in to provide and at least get him independent and mobile."

Verrett said the biggest part of providing service to such a rural area is being prepared.

"They go up there with anything that they may possibly need and may come across—it's like being the ultimate Cub Scout," said Verrett. "You want to be incredibly prepared. You're in Alaska; there's no Home Depot around the corner or any place to pick up any parts or components you may have forgotten."

Providing for patients in rural Alaska could also mean shipping parts in by boat—and then having the patient or caregiver install them. ATPs spend a lot of time educating the patient on basic maintenance and care of a wheelchair to keep them able to use the chair between ATG's trips north.

"It's like if you lived in a remote part of the world where you owned a car but there were no mechanics," said Verrett. "You would have to fix minor things and handle simple repairs. An individual that has a complex rehab chair in a market like that, they need to be a little more self-reliant." HME