Are Certifications Important?

It can be an unconscious decision to entrust someone who is an authority in the field we need assistance from. Whether it is building a house, having a major renovation, having your automobile repaired, having a medical procedure; there is value and peace of mind knowing that your choice is certified and reputable.

You may find it surprising that when it comes to Seating and Mobility equipment; many insurances including local Medicaid’s do not require any certification or licensing that the person recommending, and providing the equipment.  At the time I am writing this, only Medicare and a few Private Insurance carriers require at a minimum an A.T.P. certification.  The ATP (Assistive Technology Professional) is a RESNA certification that requires an individual have some basic experience in DME (Durable Medical Equipment), and who sits for a test.  This certification was established to set a minimum standard to ensure that the person who was involved with the equipment has some experience, and who is requires continuing education. 

As you can imagine, some individuals take this test to gain the minimum standards required by Medicare and never increase their skills as it is not a requirement. Is that enough? There are several people who have been in this industry for decades that have great experience; however when you are looking for an expert, how do you separate a veteran ATP versus one who passed the test last week?

If you are needing basic Seating and Mobility equipment then maybe a newbie can help, but if you are facing challenges; wouldn’t you want someone who you can trust has the experience, knowledge and resources you need.  

The NRRTS organization felt that the ATP was a good starting point, but felt that Seating and Mobility is a specialty and felt there needed to be a higher standard.  NRRTS established the RRTS (Registered Rehab Technology Supplier) which you become after meeting their standards and are listed on a Registry.  After two years of being registered, with no complaints against you, you become a CRTS (Certified Rehab Technology Supplier).  The CRTS has been the gold standard when it comes to finding an expert Seating and Mobility Specialist. 

Resna offers a SMS certification to differentiate a general supplier and a specialist. This Seating and Mobility Specialist Certification is tested on experience, and was created by RESNA.  This test requires years of experience as there is no manual, or book to read to pass the exam. 

I find it puzzling how if you need compression stockings, only a certified fitter can help you; however with a custom wheelchair with many insurances anyone can fit you for this equipment.  I am happy to see that it is changing, but in my eyes not soon enough. Many lobby that the reason more insurance carriers do not mandate these certifications are that they may not be enough ATPs around.

There was a time where every community had an amazing physician, or an amazing therapist who were the expert in Seating and Mobility; and where the equipment supplier only had to know about their product(s).  Today, with budget cuts, and increased productivity demands; the Physician and Therapist do not have the time or incentive to be the expert with seating and mobility equipment. They have higher demands and expectations on the Equipment Supplier for measurement, assessment and recommendation of equipment.

The Equipment Supplier is now suffering from the same budget cuts, and now have a reduced menu of services which depend on the funding source. These insurance pressures are forcing providers to provide what is minimally necessary to maintain a level of profit for the company to ensure their doors can stay open. 

At the end of the day you have to decide who will help you, who will recommend equipment  that will affect your life.  The equipment supplier has to make a profit for survival; however your equipment supplier must have your best interests in mind.   The certification(s) are a layer of protection for the consumer, not only for the knowledge and ongoing education.

Not unlike another Medical Professional there is a board that they are accountable for and where their licenses or certifications can be taken away and where it will affect their ability to work. 

This Article was written by Carey J. Britton, ATP/SMS, CRTS. He can be reached at (954) 821-7322 or at wheelchairguys@gmail.com. Find us on Facebook.

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