New RESNA ATP Exam, Policies Start Jan. 1

On Jan. 1, 2009, the current Assistive Technology Practitioner (ATP) and Supplier (ATS) credentials will be replaced by the new Assistive Technology Professional (ATP).

The new ATP exam and credentialing program will be administered by the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA).

Anjali Weber, director of certification for RESNA, explained that the new credential will apply to all assistive technology professionals who pass the exam, whether or not they actually sell rehab equipment. Previously, the ATS credential was reserved for professionals who sold equipment, while the ATP credential was for those who did not.

"Basically," Weber says, "we're consolidating the two certifications into one because the credentialing program is starting its 13th year, and we had a chance to look back at how the current system worked, how people used the certification, what it means, and concerns about it being tied to a role. The purpose of certification is to identify a knowledge base and proficiency base. And the other purpose of certification is to ensure quality services.

"But what we found was when certification was tied to a role, the content areas we were testing on still came from the same outline. And we felt that certification shouldn't be tied to a role, because people's jobs change: You're a therapist, you've become a supplier, is your ATP (credential) any good? What does it mean if I'm an ATP, but now I'm working for a supplier? I think (having two different credentials) lent to more confusion."

The new AT Professional certification, Weber says, will identify a person who has "a core knowledge base, regardless of what your role is in the service delivery system, whether you are doing evaluations, building something custom, or if you're supplying it (or) repairing it."

Given that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began requiring ATS involvement for certain Medicare-funded complex assistive technology orders this year, Weber confirmed that CMS has given the new certification plan its blessing.

"We actually consulted with (CMS) before we even brought it out," Weber says. "We went through several levels of stakeholders, (starting) first with discussions with CMS, saying here is the kind of change we're making, and we had a conference call with all four DME MAC medical directors. What (CMS was) really looking for was the RESNA certification, and when they had rewritten the modification to the LCD (local coverage determination) for power mobility devices, they had rewritten it to say the supplier could have the ATS or ATP. When we announced that we were making this change, they said it was completely in line with what their understanding was, and they had no issues with it. They've already made the administrative change, and it is in the quality standards, and it will be in the LCDs also, effective Jan. 1."

Current holders of ATS or ATP certification will not have to take the new exam, Weber adds.

"What we're doing is an administrative change," she explains. "If they're currently certified and their certification is in good standing, we have created a mechanism (to make the change)."

ATS- and ATP-certified providers are being asked to go to www.resna.org and click on Certification to update or confirm their information. Once that's done, Assistive Technology Professional certificates will be mailed out.

Also starting Jan. 1., the certification renewal period changes from one to two years. Of the previous yearly renewal requirement, Weber says, "What we've found is doing it on an annual basis seems too much. So in January, we are moving to a two-year renewal period. When (credentialed ATS or ATP providers) renew on their date in 2009, they'll then be renewed for two years, until 2011. People will still stick to their current term date and renew at that time."

Weber says the two-year renewal cycle will give providers more time to accrue the necessary continuing education units (CEUs). "In these economic times, people can't go to a major conference every year," she points out. "So we're hoping the two-year period gives people more time to get to a major conference where they can get some better training."

Starting in 2009, ATP credential holders will be able to count other industry activities, such as presenting an educational session at a conference or doing an in-service, toward their CEU requirements. RESNA is also "looking at providing more online educational opportunities in 2009."

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