NRRTS changes guards

Monday, August 31, 2009

NRRTS welcomes a new president in August: John Zona, a long-time registrant who's a seating specialist for the Fallon Clinic, a Worcester, Mass.-based medical group practice. He replaces Weesie Walker. Zona, a NRRTS-registered CRTS and a RESNA-certified ATP, spoke with HME News in late June, detailing his plans for the organization.

HME News: You've been involved with NRRTS since the early 1990s, when the organization was created. What made you want to take a leadership role after all of these years?

John Zona: I've had quite a few people in the industry tell me, 'I'd like to nominate you for a position,' but I've always been too busy. Then, four years ago, I started working for the Fallon Clinic. Because I'm more of a clinician now, I have more time. I didn't want to take a position that I didn't have time for.

hme: With so much going on--industry attempts to rescind a 9.5% reimbursement cut and create a separate benefit for complex rehab, and Congressional attempts to eliminate the first-month purchase option--why is NRRTS membership important?

Zona: NRRTS, for lack of a better comparison, is like a union for rehab technology suppliers (RTSs). There's no one else who represents only RTSs--not NCART, not AAHomecare.

hme: We published a story not too long ago about NRRTS membership dropping. How do you plan to address that as president?

Zona: We need to do a better job of educating RTSs on why paying $4 a week to be a NRRTS registrant is worth it. I was talking to a friend of mine, who's an orthotist/prosthetist, and I was telling him that our membership had gone from about 800 members to 740, and he said, 'In this economy, that's pretty good, especially when you're in a professional group where membership isn't required.' We're starting to see things turn around. We've had renewed interest from larger providers who had decided not to pay for memberships for their RTSs. Some of them have gone back and said, 'OK, we'll pay for 25% of it.'

hme: What are your plans for the next two years?

Zona: I'd like to expand our CELA conference by involving more end users. It's nice for RTSs to go to Capitol Hill and talk to lawmakers, but end users are much more impressive. In general, I'd like to continue our education efforts. We have, by far, the least expensive and most well-done educational opportunities, whether it's CELA, our teleseminar series, our listserv or our magazine, Directions. We don't talk about that enough.

hme: NRRTS announced in June that it's co-funding a project with NCART to create a separate benefit for complex rehab. Why has the organization made this a priority?

Zona: We've already worked hard to get complex rehab removed from the competitive bidding process, but that's just for power chairs. There are manual chairs that should be in complex rehab. We have to educate CMS and others that complex rehab isn't just a power chair with a sip and puff.

hme: What's in store for the rehab industry's future?

Zona: Down the road, there has to be some kind of licensure for complex rehab. Presently, it's the ATP, but that just means you know a little bit about many different types of assistive technology.