Group of clinicians seeks to 'better define' their roles

Monday, April 25, 2011

BETHESDA, Md. - Providers often complain that it's not fair that they have to meet special requirements to provide complex rehab technology but PTs and OTs do not.

They'll be happy to know a group of PTs and OTs are trying to change that.

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) approved on April 14 a motion to develop a "specialized knowledge and skills document" on complex rehab in OT practice. A similar motion will be voted on by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) in June. 

"The concept is to get both organizations to better define those areas of practice," said Laura Cohen, a PT and co-coordinator of The Clinician Task Force. "A lot of therapists feel that a wheelchair is a wheelchair. Basically, they'll evaluate someone and say, 'Yes, they need a wheelchair.' But that's as far as they'll go, because they don't recognize that a wheelchair is specialized and that the therapist contributes more to the process than, 'Yes, they need one.'"

In 2008, CMS began requiring that providers have an ATP on staff to provide Group 3 complex rehab.

After pressure from the AOTA and ATPA, it did not require, however, that therapists conducting evaluations for complex rehab  be ATPs.

"They took the stand that all therapists, based on their licensure, are qualified to do seating and mobility," said Chris Chovan, an OT/ATP who owns Rehab Mobility Specialists in Belle Vernon, Pa. "But the AOTA has many areas of expertise that it has identified and this would be another one."

The big picture is that, if the AOTA and APTA more formally define the role that therapists play in providing complex rehab, they will then be more open to higher standards of practice.

"This is a baby step toward that," said Cindi Petito, an OT and ATP who owns Seating Solutions in Orange Park, Fla.

A few years ago, AOTA voted down a motion to create a specialty certification for complex rehab, saying it wouldn't be of interest to enough of its members.

"This is viewed by the organizations as a small niche practice area, but the fact of the matter is, it affects all PTs and OTs who are working with patients who aren't functionally mobile at the completion of their therapy services." hme