Rehab reaps regulatory reprieve

Monday, December 31, 2007

WASHINGTON – The Program Safeguard Contractors (PSCs) in December eliminated their requirement that independent assistive technology practitioners (ATPs) must conduct evaluations for certain power wheelchairs beginning April 1. That decision lifts a huge weight off the shoulders of providers.
The PSCs still plan to require that providers have assistive technology suppliers (ATSs) on staff to deliver the wheelchairs.
“They probably looked at the feedback from the industry and other stakeholders and knew there would be a shortage of ATPs,” said Don Clayback, vice president of government relations for The MED Group. “They realized that there are enough OTs and PTs who already qualify (to do the work) based on experience and that the ATS requirement will be a significant improvement to the system. It was nice to see them have an appreciation for, ‘Let’s not go too far.’”
The rehab industry had lobbied the medical directors to eliminate the ATP requirement for months, arguing that there are only 184 ATPS with wheeled seating and mobility experience, mostly on the East Coast. If the PSCs didn’t eliminate the requirement, many providers would not have been able to conduct evaluations, creating major access problems.
Unlike the ATP requirement, the industry has never had much of a problem with the ATS requirement.
“I think the providers who are serious about complex rehab have already met that requirement,” said Tim Pederson, chair of AAHomecare’s Rehab and Assistive Technology Council (RATC) and CEO of WestMed Rehab in Rapid City, S.D. “Others haven’t met it and have no plans to.”
The American Occupational Therapy and American Physical Therapy associations (AOTA and APTA) also lobbied the medical directors to dump the ATP requirement. The associations are currently developing competency programs for therapists who specialize in wheeled seating and mobility, according to Cindi Petito, an OT and ATP who owns Seating Solutions in Jacksonville, Fla.
“There are therapists out there who have worked in rehab clinics and have worked on wheelchairs for some time,” she said. “They’re not ATPs, and they don’t have any interest in being ATPs. They were not happy about this requirement.”
If therapists want further education in wheeled seating and mobility, they’ll be more likely to seek it from the AOTA or APTA, Petito said.
For therapists who have already made arrangements to become ATPs, their efforts haven’t been wasted, industry sources said.
“We brought a therapist with us to an association meeting in October for him to take the exam,” Pederson said. “That was a professional decision he had to make, and he made it according to the regulations of the day. I don’t see it as an issue. It’s a nice feather in his cap.”