Advice for Choosing the Best Wheelchair Provider for YOU
In this day of constantly evolving technology and funding challenges, working with a knowledgeable team of professionals to obtain the most appropriate seating system and wheelchair is vital. When looking to build a top-notch roster of professionals it is important to note that each member of the team (end user, caregivers, physical therapist, occupational therapist, supplier, physician, etc.) plays a critical role in not only the evaluation process, but also the delivery and maintenance of the wheelchair.
Throughout my career I have had the privilege to work with a number of highly skilled and dedicated rehabilitation technology suppliers (RTS) on multi-disciplinary teams. Based on my experience, the best teammates embrace the idea of an equal partnership by working together closely, communicating well, and learning from one another. Full disclosure: not every wheelchair provision team I have worked with has been perfect. In order to provide you with areas to consider when selecting a RTS best suited for you and/or your team, I reached out to a colleague who not only worked for over 30 years as an RTS but is also the current executive director of the National Registry of Rehabilitation Technology Suppliers (NRRTS), Weesie Walker.
Here's some advice from Weesie:
Do Your Research
The reality is not all wheelchair suppliers are created equal, so it's helpful to do some research prior to scheduling an appointment.
Seek recommendations from clinicians (physical therapists or occupational therapists), a physician, case manager, and/or other wheelchair users.
Visit the supplier's website and/or call the office to learn about funding (i.e. does the company accept your insurance), services offered, equipment provided, credentials, evaluation process, etc.
Spend some time exploring the NRRTS website. There are variety of resources developed for RTSs, clinicians, and end users. After all, NRRTS was created to provide consumer protection and a method of identifying the professional RTS.
It's highly recommended that you look to ensure that the RTS you are considering working with has the proper credentials. Depending on the funding source the RTS may be required to have the following credentials:
Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) – A certification earned through the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) that covers a wide variety of assistive technology.
Seating and Mobility Specialist (SMS) – This is an additional certification offered through RESNA. In order to sit for this examination an individual must have already successfully completed the requirements to become an ATP. Once the certification is obtained his/her credentials will read ATP/SMS.
Registered Rehabilitation Technology Supplier (RRTS) – The RRTS credentials are offered through NRRTS. In order to become a RRTS, an individual must go through a rigorous application process in which his/her knowledge of complex rehabilitation technology is verified.
Certified Rehabilitation Technology Supplier (CRTS) – A CRTS is a RRTS that has been a RRTS in good standing for at least two years and has passed the ATP certification. Both the RRTS and CRTS credentials are reserved for individuals who are actively employed by a complex rehabilitation technology supplier.
All of the certifications listed above require that the RTS adhere to professional codes of ethics and engage in continuing education activities on a consistent basis. Both the RESNA and NRRTS websites have searchable databases that allow visitors to search for credentialed professionals in their area or verify a professional's credentials.
In addition to choosing the best RTS to fit the consumer's needs, it is important that the end user is very involved in the wheelchair provision process from the beginning. Remember, all members of the team are equally important. End users and/or caregivers should have open lines of communication with all of the team members. They should be sure to share any and all information that has an impact on the many decisions that must be made when going through the wheelchair provision process. For example discussing previous wheelchairs or other medical equipment utilized.
At the end of the day the end user, caregivers, and clinicians should all be able to rest assured knowing that the RTS is qualified and dedicated to meet the needs of the end user. The best case scenario is that the first meeting between an end user and RTS will result in a lasting professional relationship for years to come.
–Weesie Walker, ATP/SMS worked for more than 30 years as an RTS. She is currently the Executive Director of NRRTS. She has served on the board of directors for NRRTS and GAMES as well as RESNA's Professional Standards board. She has presented at the International Seating Symposium, National Seating and Mobility Symposium, Georgia AMES, American Occupational Therapy Association conference, and Canadian Seating and Mobility Conference. firstname.lastname@example.org
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Always remember at the end of the day, your client is your number one priority!
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Posted by: Date: 12/15/2015 3:45:00 PM
Filed under: ATP