Leverage resources, heighten outcomes

Monday, November 26, 2012

To say the responsibilities of a rehab professional have changed over the last decade is an understatement. Ten years ago, a rehab provider could go to an evaluation with a client and therapist and find a mobility solution that was appropriate and justifiable with little difficulty. It would result in that client receiving the proper equipment, options and accessories to improve mobility and independence. 

Fast forward to the present day: We find ourselves in a very different environment with fewer clients receiving mobility solutions specific to their unique needs. The last several years in our industry have been a rollercoaster ride of challenges including funding, qualification, justification and accreditation. We rise to the occasion and continue to put our clients’ needs first, but sometimes we still see denials, slow processing of approvals, and are questioned by funding sources about necessity. 

As we are all aware, being just another rehab professional in this industry is not enough. We need to be efficient, calculating, proactively prepared and knowledgeable about the entire process. We also need to be smart business people and stay updated on all industry happenings and innovations. To do this, we need to leverage technology, relationships and become great strategists to accomplish our goals. 

Partnering with rehab facilities

Developing productive relationships with therapists in facilities is an important piece to having a successful client outcome. The client receives the best outcome when the ATP and therapist work as a team and have excellent communication. When the therapist and ATP have a discussion about the evaluation and share ideas ahead of time, it greatly improves the process. Knowing and planning for the client’s needs and requirements beforehand saves time and puts the client at ease.

Review intake information carefully

Have an idea of what type of lifestyle the client has and what objectives the therapist has in recommending equipment. Come prepared with equipment and ideas that address these needs. Understand what funding is available for the options that may best suit both the client and caregiver. Taking advantage of sample chairs provided by manufacturers makes it easier for the therapist and ATP during the initial evaluation, and provides comfort to the client. The client can test out the driving capabilities, get an overall feeling for how the chair operates, and provide feedback to the therapist and ATP on what additional options would help him/her throughout his/her typical day. 

It is also important for the manufacturer to have a good relationship with the providers and facilities to provide them with sample chairs within their demographic. Make sure the equipment you provide for patient trials and evaluations suits the needs of the patients, is in working order, and can be adjusted to meet a variety of client measurements and lifestyles. Bring a variety of seating and positioning options and accessories that can be trialed for support and comfort. Spend the time to educate the treating therapist, client and caregiver on the features of the equipment, as well as what alternatives they may have.

Continuing education and being an advocate

Gone are the days of thinking that someone else will fight for the needs of the client and the industry; it is fully up to each of us. We must work with the manufacturers that are lobbying in the best interest of the industry. We must be knowledgeable about the ongoing regulatory changes and how they affect local areas and the overall industry. We must get our clients involved. 

As rehab professionals, we are the ones on the front lines with the clients, hearing their stories and seeing their troubles. But, consumer advocacy is growing and helping to implement positive changes and it is our duty to get our clients involved. Change can be implemented by knowledgeable people, but the message becomes much stronger when the person who actually requires the mobility equipment is well informed, involved and working to provide change, too. We must never underestimate the power that can be gained by showing the human face of the industry.

It is important that we are involved with industry events that help promote positive change and provide education to improve client outcomes. Industry events such as Medtrade, the International Seating Symposium and RESNA’s annual conference provide continuing education for rehab professionals on all subjects, including products, technology, funding, and applications for specific diagnosis. These events not only keep us well educated, but also allow the networking with professionals and consumers that is necessary to keep our industry moving forward.

We can still be successful rehab professionals, supply clients with the most appropriate equipment to enhance their lives, and offer the necessary support to maximize client independence. We merely need to modify our approach and come together as an industry.

Jay Brislin, MSPT, is vice president of Quantum Rehab.