Editor's Note

At Your Service

boltsA legal assistant recently sent me an e-mail on behalf of her employer, an attorney, seeking more information on repairs being made to the power wheelchair owned by a Medicare beneficiary.

A complex rehab provider had listed the expected workflow for repairing the power chair. There were 12 steps, beginning with “Client calls in to report a problem” and “Technician comes out to do an evaluation,” then advancing all the way through to “Technician brings parts to make repair.” In between were nine more steps covering documentation, physician approvals, insurance approvals, acquisition of parts, et al.

The legal assistant wanted to know my opinion on this long list. I sensed she expected me to say, “That’s outrageous!”

Instead — after noting that I am not an ATP, a repair tech, a Medicare employee, or a policy expert — I told her, “What you describe sounds typical to me.”

I then pointed out what the law firm probably didn’t know. First, documentation requirements, physician approvals, insurance approvals and other mandates are not created by complex rehab providers. Second, while the lengthy process means the client can be without a fully functional wheelchair for a longer-than-ideal period, it also means the provider invests time (driving to the client’s home, determining the problem, chasing approvals) and money (purchasing replacement parts) without getting paid.

Hardship is felt by the client, to be sure. But it’s shared by the provider.

The legal assistant was surprised that what sounds like a long and cumbersome repair and reimbursement process is pretty standard in this industry. I don’t know the reason for that surprise — if there’s a general lack of understanding of how complex this industry’s wheelchairs are because of their highly technical capabilities and the fact that they’re custom built and/or fit to each user. Or if the lack of understanding concerns the many requirements for documentation and approvals that are an everyday part of providing and servicing CRT.

I do know that the attorney believed his client’s power chair should have been ready to roll and fully functional when his client needed it.

I bet the provider wanted that, too.

Service and repair isn’t always a flashy topic, and repair technicians can be an underappreciated group, even though they’re crucial to seating and wheeled mobility success. So any time service gets some attention — the new DMERT certification program, for example — I think it’s a good thing.

Thanks to very hard work by the industry, more and more policy makers know what CRT is these days. When those policy makers achieve a similar understanding of the value of high-quality, timely, informed service and repair… that will be a great day, indeed.

This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

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

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