O&P practitioners are health care professionals, yet the structure of their billing and care model is unfortunately dissimilar to the majority of health care providers. For O&P practitioners, coding and billing is tied to technology supplied and service provided, often in a single event, vs. being reimbursed for ongoing care. By contrast, orthopedic surgeons bill for performing a service, but the implants themselves are billed separately when used.
In today’s era, O&P practitioners provide important services for patients, know prosthetic technology better than anyone, including surgeons, rehab physicians and physical therapist, and have a close connection with patients they treat. They create and optimize the fit of complex devices that interact intimately with the human body, manage day-to-day care for patients who are constantly changing physically and provide emotional support to those who have experienced dramatic life changes. Given their mixed role as device manufacturers, caretakers and “pseudo-psychologists,” they are not receiving the attention or credit they deserve.
Value to health care
O&P providers have been demonstrating their added value to the health care profession through policy work and I encourage and support these efforts. But I also want to suggest other steps the profession could consider internally to promote the elevation of advanced prosthetic providers. It is key that O&P practitioners understand the value in adopting new technology, skills or particularly challenging conditions to increase their value within and outside the profession.
Value of technology adoption
As an orthopedic surgeon and co-founder of a tech company, of course I am biased, but I believe staying on top of the latest industry developments is critical to a competitive edge in this line of business. Being the most competent provider of new devices is a quick and simple way to improve outcomes and elevate oneself as an advanced care provider. Just like arthroplasty surgeons are masters of diagnosis, decision-making and technical use of advanced surgical implants, O&P practitioners can benefit in a similar manner by taking on complex cases, focusing on particular patient groups and evolving novel care models.
Further examples can be found with neuroradiologists, interventional cardiologists and others who have adopted novel technologies and are forcing the broader profession to follow suit and create career paths for them. Their fields exist because of the technology and positive clinical outcomes borne from those dedicated to advancing the profession.
Providing advanced services
Along these lines, I have noticed a lack of fellowship opportunities in the O&P profession. It is concerning to see the absence of advanced training options. Technology advancement aside, there will always be an evolution of our understanding, diagnosis and treatment for specific patient conditions. A logical solution would be to consider development of advanced technology and training options for pediatric O&P, sports O&P or other specialty provider models for example. Just as there are pediatric and sports-specific physicians — these specialists provide corresponding advanced services, giving them a competitive advantage.
Francois Van Der Watt, renowned for his expertise in the area of advanced sports prosthetics, summarized it well for me personally: “With growing interest in amputees’ ability to participate in adaptive sports and activities, the profession is lacking a formal forum to develop the advanced skills and fulfill the future needs of users. With little research to support the objective development of sports specific prosthetics, what we know today is limited to experience gained through a process of trial and error. The need to educate and train prosthetists in this specialty field will only increase in the future.”
The future is bright for O&P practitioners looking to impact functional outcomes for their patients and simultaneously further their careers by embracing innovative and leading edge technology as a demonstration of the expert services they can provide patients. This is the O&P profession’s opportunity to align itself with the key drivers in health care. I propose internal industry changes like these might be a good start.
- For more information:
- Andrew Pedtke, MD, is CEO and co-founder of LIM Innovations. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.
Disclosure: Pedtke reports he is CEO and co-founder of LIM Innovations.