Solving the Problems of Underserved Populations in Physical Therapy and Healthcare

If you follow any amount of social media coverage of physical therapy, you’ll likely think it’s all about dropping needles, cash-based therapy, and treating pain with a biopsychosocial approach.

There are however small pockets of therapy that no one ever discusses on social media.

Today happens to be Wheelchair Tuesday- once a month myself and another physical therapist ( 2 CSCS’s) team up to provide wheelchair and seating coverage to our community here in Vermont. No there are absolutely no glamorous certifications related to doing wheelchairs and Medicare ( and most other insurers) does not make it easy on the provider, requiring considerable hoops and paperwork.

Add this to the fact that you must use an ATP (certified assistive technology professional) who is a neutral party to complete the assessments. This means that you not only have to coordinate with the patient, yet find an ATP is well. Add to this the the hours of paperwork, minimal reimbursement & up to a year to get a chair approved, can you even name a PT who does WC & Seating? How many can you name boasting about their last manual therapy course?

Meet Joe- one of the best ATPs in New England & that means he covers 3 states. Joe knows more about chairs than I’ve forgotten.

Together we help provide dignity through mobility & it is not easy…… Due to lack of therapists performing this service, we see clients from a 90 mile radius.

On March 31st, this rolled into our clinic (ok attempted rolling…) :
It’s half a chair at best & mostly wrapped in Scotch Tape. Now before you make any level of judgement whatsoever- this chair met EVERY mobility & basic need for a person who has a life much harder than most of us may comprehend & due to thier level of health literacy, never knew that routine WC & Seating clinics were an option.

 Today, this was delivered and custom fit to our client. They were also placed on a monitoring schedule with the vendor to follow up every six months to perform maintenance. Remarkably, this was a relativity fast turn around time for a new chair.

Until population health really takes hold, obtaining an appropriate chair will always be more arduous than sourcing payment for a pressure ulcer. Here comes the cold water, an ulcer runs $70,000.

Another small win today was pulling the wheel off the side guards of a paraplegic’s chair. That’s a tire rubbing through metal and destroying a set of shoulders in the process.

So I hope this brings a certain level of perspective the next time your struggling over how to contribute as a therapist. It’s no harder than looking for an avenue where you may help.

Today was a good Tuesday.

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