The Importance of Adaptability

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By Andrea Spridgen

The philosopher Heraclitus'oft-referenced theory that change is the only constant in life seems to be particularly true in the O&P profession where adaptability is essential. In this issue, we explore the ways technicians' skillsets and positions are evolving with changes in materials, device designs, and roles in the O&P patient care team.

"Adapting Fabrication Skills With Changing Technology" reviews a sample of flexible socket design trends that may require technicians to learn new fabrication methods to produce devices with different properties than those in which they were trained. In this feature, practitioners, technicians, and central fabrication owners share their views about how the increasing use of digital scans and 3D printing will require techs to continue their education beyond hand skills, and how the number of technicians employed in central fabrication facilities rather than private practices may expand as more practices outsource fabrication.

Our second feature looks at formal education for entering the O&P tech field. "Why Educated Technicians Are Critical to the Future of O&P Care and How Your Contribution Matters" presents data for those contemplating an associate of applied science orthotic-prosthetic technician degree, including job availability and outlook. The authors explore how the changing complexion of the O&P profession, including practitioners focusing more on clinical patient care and evidence-based practice and less on hands-on fabrication, and potential regulations regarding credentials for all members of the team, creates more reliance on educated, skilled techs.

Peter W. Thomas, JD, and Steven Postal, JD, discuss changes that may impact reimbursement for O&P services and devices in "Major Medicare Audit and Appeals Developments." Updates on codes targeted for audits, delays in Administrative Law Judges' ability to hear and make determinations on appeals, and reimbursement policies are perhaps the most continually uncertain areas of O&P practice. While many of the developments Thomas and Postal report on portend positive movement, this is an area that will continue to require the profession to adapt to survive in the modern healthcare climate.

Finally, in our Shop Talk department, Travis Petersen, BOCP, COA, shares the modifications he made when setting up a fabrication lab after a change many of us have experienced, moving to a new state and taking a new job.

Happy reading.