Fighting the good fight

Thursday, November 10, 2011

KRESS, Texas - Those who work in the complex rehab technology industry know what it's like to be the little guy who gets bullied.

"We are a very small and essentially insignificant industry in the grand scheme of things," Gerry Dickerson, director of rehab for College Point, N.Y.-based Medstar, said. "We're very easy to pick on."

Dickerson has spent the past 20 years educating lawmakers about complex rehab technology. Those efforts were recognized recently when NRRTS and NCART named him the first-ever recipient of the David T. Williams Advocacy Award--established in honor of David Williams, an activist for people with disabilities, who died earlier this year.

Advocacy isn't an easy job, and it's the small victories, like getting a client the equipment they need, that keep Dickerson motivated.

"You really count on that extraordinary consumer that you were able to make a difference for," he said.

Paperwork requirements and other regulations that prevent clients from getting what they need frustrate Dickerson the most, he said. 

"The service delivery process has been marginalized by the documentation process," he said. "You know what the right clinical intervention is, but the regulations say you can't do that."

A recent example: a patient whose wheelchair needed repairs, but the original provider had gone out of business. Without the documentation supporting the need for the wheelchair, Dickerson's company was unable to help the patient. 

"Can we fix it? Yes. Will we? No. We can't expose our entire company for a $300 battery," he said. "It breaks your heart."

Dickerson's ultimate goal for the industry: "Seeing to it that the ATP/CRTS in the field who grinds it out every day and comes up with extraordinary solutions gets recognized for the blood sweat and tears that's just poured into their work," he said. "People who do that really love what we do and are just getting hammered by silliness."