Rehab providers build diversity

Thursday, August 31, 2006

WATERLOO, Iowa - Rehab providers who want to diversify their product mix but stay true to their roots have a new opportunity--becoming a certified environmental access consultant.
The VGM Group's U.S. Rehab has begun offering the credential to help providers enter the growing home modifications market, which comprises everything from widening doors to gutting bathrooms. The goal: allowing the elderly to age in place and the disabled to remain in their homes.
"Why turn business away?" asked Jerry Keiderling, vice president of U.S. Rehab. "We already know the client. We already do home assessments. It's an avenue for us to say, 'You're going to need this. It can keep your independent life possible.'"
U.S. Rehab acquired the rights to the credential earlier this year from PRIME, an accredited provider of medical and professional education. Since then, it has developed an application process, a pre-test education program and a final written exam. The group plans to proctor its first exam at Medtrade.
With new documentation requirements making it harder and harder to supply power wheelchairs and scooters, providers are looking for ways to diversify, said Rob Summitt, president of the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Summitt Group, a rehab provider that has already dived head first into the home modifications market.
"With all the changes in Medicare and Medicaid--if a rehab provider doesn't find alternative revenue steams, he will not be in business much longer," Summitt said. "We expect our home modifications business to exceed our rehab business, in dollar amounts, in the next year."
Summitt plans to sit for the CEAC exam at Medtrade. He said the credential will "give us another tool in our arsenal that says, 'Hey, listen, we know what we're doing.'"
While the home modifications market represents an attractive opportunity for rehab providers, those who are interested should ease into it, Keiderling said. "We don't want every rehab provider to go out and buy bulldozers," he said. "We propose they get into it as a consultant and do some of the work themselves and subcontract the rest."
Summitt contracts three sub-contractors to complete much of his company's home modifications work. He acts much like a consultant, because "most contractors don't know about medical equipment and the insurance barriers you have to deal with."
In addition to cash, there are several referral and payer sources and managed care organizations that recognize the credential and its related home modification services, Keiderling said.
U.S. Rehab is targeting about 180 interested providers for the program, he said.