Show respect for ATPs and reap the rewards

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Q. How do I build a relationship with a RESNA-certified therapist who can evaluate a patient's mobility needs?
A. Your question, I'm sure, springs from CMS's requirement that beginning in April 2008 beneficiaries for certain power mobility devices must be evaluated by an independent ATP. If you've never worked with an ATP outside your company, here are a few things to keep in mind:
* Become a RESNA-certified provider yourself. Most qualified clinicians will only work with certified providers. This is to ensure a continuity of care that follows best-practice standards and to share liability.
* Contact ATP clinicians in your region and ask them what they require of the providers they work with. Typically, clinicians look for a history of good service, responsiveness, professionalism, knowledge of product, access to an array of demo equipment from multiple manufacturers, etc. Remember, clinicians make their money based on the number of patients they see. Do not just refer them difficult cases. Often, simple scooter or power wheelchair assessments are needed to help cover the costs of more complex cases.
* Build a relationship with therapists whether they have expertise in wheelchairs or not. Show them how they can bill for these types of assessments, and show them how this can present new business opportunities to their practice or hospital. Many clinicians and practice managers believe wheelchair assessments are money-losers, which is not necessarily the case.
* Finally, cultivate an interest in rehabilitation therapy or medicine. I have noticed a new-found interest by some therapists, physiatrists (particularly younger ones) and students who want to work in this area but feel the opportunities are limited. Share what the process is to become ATP certified, as well as the myriad of resources, including continuing education opportunities locally, nationally, online and in print.

Mark Schmeler, Ph.D., OTR/L, ATP, is on the faculty of the Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology at the Univeristy of Pittsburgh.