ATG Rehab 2012 Conference: Achieving Balance in Denver

ATG Rehab's 2012 National Education Conference (NEC) in Denver set out to achieve multiple goals, and perhaps also to answer an important question:

How do you nurture camaraderie, learning and trust among colleagues if some of them are complete strangers?

This is a crucial question for ATG Rehab, of course, because of its continuing acquisition activities and strategy. For instance, just a few weeks before the NEC began, ATG announced it had acquired Gulf Coast Rehab Equipment and Custom Healthcare, which added 13 offices to the ATG Rehab family.

In an interview with Mobility Management, Cody Verrett, ATG's VP of sales & marketing, said ATG management was determined to meaningfully include Gulf Coast Rehab and Custom Healthcare ATPs in this year's national meeting.

"We worked really hard behind the scenes," Verrett says. "Once that acquisition was through, we were prepared to bring their team with us. We wanted them to feel a part of our company and really feel a sense of the bigger picture. I think the extra effort to get them to Denver made a big difference."

The More the Merrier

The last 11 months of acquisition work - which included Peak Wheelchairs, Rocky Mountain Medical, Vanguard, and Chesapeake Rehab - has added more than three dozen ATPs to ATG Rehab's NEC roster. The number of exhibitors this year also climbed, up 25 percent from last year. This year's event featured 36 exhibitors in 40 booths.

In total, therefore, NEC attendance was up 65 percent compared to the 2011 NEC, Verrett said.

When an event grows that quickly and significantly, another question arises: How do you effectively host this many people while maintaining an intimate enough atmosphere to encourage team building and bonding?

In a word: Balance.

While ATPs were in Denver to earn CEUs and also to learn about various business processes, Verrett says the event-planning team also wanted to include plenty of chances for colleagues to chat and get to know each other.

"We tried to create more networking opportunities because there are so many new people, new faces," he says.

Those opportunities began Friday, April 20, as ATPs converged on the Sheraton Denver Downtown. An ATP Arrival Reception was followed by ATG's annual cocktail reception and awards banquet.

"Our number of award recipients increased by 35 percent," Verrett says, adding that ATPs at Gulf Coast Rehab and Custom Healthcare were also recognized for their achievements.

On Saturday morning, ATG's education fair got underway. ATPs were divided into groups of approximately 35 people each, then rotated through five different stations, all "designed around improving process and business development, while unveiling new technology and tools that benefit our clients and clinicians," Verrett says.

One example was a rotation called "Pre-Fund, ABN & Fully Funded," presented by ATG's Jerry Knight, Executive VP, and Roxann Roth, VP.

"Pre-fund for us is an essential component for success for the client," Verrett explains. "It is a process of having the ATP arrive at the evaluation fully aware of what the client's insurance provider is going to pay for and what their co-pays could potentially be, so everybody in the evaluation has a clear picture of what's possible based on funding available. It allows us to come into the evaluation more prepared to set the expectations for the client in a much more appropriate fashion and ultimately helps speed delivery."

Verrett co-presented a session called "Technician Referral Program" with ATG's Gary Gilberti.

Of that rotation, Verrett says, "It's really supposed to help our technicians provide better customer service. When they're in the field making a repair and a client says, 'I've got this pain I've been feeling, like a sore or something,' our techs don't just have them sign the paper for the repair and walk out the door. They take a moment and ask a few simple questions of the client and try to get them reconnected to the ATP, if necessary. It's a simple thing, but it's about creating more reach and doing more for our customers. With our team of ATPs and more than 200 rehab and repair technicians on the road each day....as you would imagine, they connect with a lot of customers each day."

Also included among the rotations was a "resource room," where ATPs could visit different stations focusing on HR, contracts, standard mobility, or funding & documentation to ask specific questions and get expert answers.

CEUs: Continuing Education for Certification

Saturday afternoon saw the beginning of all-important CEU courses. The first, by Invacare Corp.'s Mike Babinec, was titled "Expandable Electronic Platforms: Application & Justification." The second session, by PRM's Todd Dinner and Sheila Buck, was named "Custom Seating & Positioning: Getting Your Hands Dirty!"

"This was one of the first years we took on the CEU portion ourselves," Verrett notes, "and it was very rewarding because we had the opportunity to hand-pick the best instructors to create classes that were really meaningful for our ATPs."

The day's education concluded with classes presented by Permobil's Amy Morgan ("The Benefits of Standing Wheelchairs Across the Lifespan") and Tim Morrison (Sunrise Medical) and Claudia Amortegui (The Orion Group), who spoke on "Custom-Configured Seating & Appropriate Justification."

By the end of the two-day meeting, Verrett adds, ATPs had completed half of their annual CEU requirement.

ATG Rehab's Supper Club

After a full day of learning, ATPs were given a creative way to unwind and socialize, as ATG unveiled its own version of a complex rehab supper club.

ATPs were further divided into groups of five to eight, with the resulting 23 groups dining independently at 11 different restaurants.

All groups worked on a dinner-time assignment: List five ways to enhance relationships and provide more service at an existing account.

"If you think about it," Verrett says, "every one of these people has a totally different perspective, a unique part of the world, and unique experiences in business development. So what we got back were 23 lists of ways to help expand service at an account."

In addition, ATPs who may never have met or even talked to each other before this year's NEC had the chance to share their daily experiences and start new friendships over dinner.

"What we got out of this," Verrett says, "was an opportunity for all these folks to really have a big group meeting feel, but also be able to have a more intimate small dinner with a handful of new friends -- new co-workers and people who share the same types of interactions and responsibilities that they do every day with their clients and referral sources, but in different parts of the world."

Reaching for the Summit

CEU courses continued on Sunday morning, Verrett says, with presentations by Motion Concepts' Brad Peterson ("Seating & Mobility for Spinal Muscular Atrophy") and Quantum Rehab's Jay Brislin ("Quantum Rehab Innovations & Complex Mobility Solutions").

Following ATG Rehab President Paul Bergantino's special address, ATPs heard from Chris Finn, head coach of the United States' 2011 World Cup-winning national power soccer team.

Finn, a nominee for induction into the National Spinal Cord Injury Association's Hall of Fame, is president of the board of directors for Community Resources for Independent Living, and has earned degrees in therapeutic recreation and educational psychology. His personal slogan: "You are able."

Finn's presentation, Verrett adds, was a perfect fit for the NEC's theme this year: Reach for the summit.

"It means to reach beyond yourself, to believe that you can overcome obstacles," Verrett says, "and it was a terrific end to a two-day meeting."

He adds that feedback about the event has been very positive - indicating among other things that ATG was successful in meeting the needs of its large overall group of ATPs, but that those ATPs also connected with each other on a personal level.

"As the industry continues to change, we're going to give our ATPs solid ways to handle and manage their business with process and technological advancements that directly benefit clients and clinicians," Verrett says of the NEC's mission. And as for this year's installment, he says judging from comments he's received, "It was the best we've ever had."

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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