Deadline looms for ATPs

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Industry sources fear not enough therapists seek to become RESNA-certified ATPs, a situation that could leave rehab providers and beneficiaries in the lurch come spring
Mark Schmeler, a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh, reports "lukewarm" participation for the review courses and Webinars he offers therapists preparing to take the ATP exam. Schmeler pointed out that it takes months to become certified--from studying to registering to receiving test results.
"It's like applying for college--you can't apply in one day and be done with it," said Schmeler, an occupational therapist and ATP. "Really, after Medtrade in October, we'll be right up against the deadline."
CMS will require independent ATPs to conduct evaluations for certain power wheelchairs beginning April 1, 2008. It will also require only providers with ATSs on staff to supply the equipment.
Not enough therapists know about the requirement, industry sources fear, and those who do aren't that concerned, because seating and mobility is such a small part of their business.
"If they don't do it, they don't do it," said Simon Margolis, executive director of NRRTS. "No big deal (for them)."
It doesn't necessarily help that the American Physical Therapy and American Occupational Therapy associations oppose the requirement (See story p. 39).
"It would be good if there were an informational campaign for therapists that helped them to understand the requirement and told them they only have a few more months to get tested," said Laura Cohen, co-coordinator of The Clinician Task Force. "But there's not a lot of info being circulated to (APTA and AOTA) members."
Provider Tyrrell Hunter said she contacted "key referral sources," including therapists, "a long time ago" to notify them of the requirement, but she's not sure how many therapists have taken action.
"There may be five or six ATPs in Maine right now, and two or three of them have different specialties," said Hunter, president of Majors Mobility in Topsham, Maine. "So unless there are people in line to take the test, we're going to be in real trouble."
Interest in the ATS and ATP certifications remains at an all-time high, RESNA maintains.
"By the end of July, we surpassed 475 ATS/ATP applicants, the number of total applicants from the previous year," said Tom Gorski, executive director.
Additionally, Gorski pointed out sales for RESNA's two review books have more than doubled this year compared to last year.
But not all ATP applicants plan on practicing seating and mobility, the industry argues. Gorski also acknowledged that the record number of ATP applicants isn't as meaningful, "when you consider the vast applicant pool of therapists."
"But I think we'll see a turnaround after the requirement goes into effect," he said.