The Credentialed Orthotist – Why It’s Important When Fitting Your Orthotics
26 Mar 2017
Orthotist is defined as – A health care professional specifically educated and trained to manage comprehensive orthotic patient care, including patient assessment, treatment plan formulation and implementation, follow-up and practice management.
The term “professional,” regardless of the field, elicits certain expectations – advanced, specialized education; demonstrated skill; proven experience. Professionals are measured by specific standards that help define their capabilities and proficiency for those they serve and with whom they interact. This condition is every bit as true for orthotics and prosthetics as for other health care professions.
In 1993, the American Medical Association recognized orthotics and prosthetics (O&P) as an allied health profession, culminating the evolution of the twin disciplines from medical-related craft to true patient care specialty. Yet, O&P has not been subject to mandatory regulation in the U.S. until recently. Currently, 12 states have passed licensure requirements, and several more have legislation in progress.
Licensure carries the force of law – state agencies determine who may legally provide O&P services to their citizens.
In time, many more states may adopt licensure, particularly those with a large elderly population and many practitioners; but for now, the large majority of states does not require a license to practice this specialty.
Filling that void is an aggressive self-regulation effort centered around individual certification and facility accreditation to certify knowledge, competence and experience for the benefit of physicians, other health professionals, patients and insurers. Two credentialing bodies for orthotists and prosthetists function in the U.S.:
• The American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics (ABC) was founded in 1948 to protect the public against unqualified providers. ABC practitioner certification is open to orthotists, prosthetists and technicians who meet well-defined educational and experience requirements and pass a rigorous written examination, written simulation, and two-day clinical exam. ABC’s facility accreditation program evaluates practices against exacting standards relating to governance, administration, staff qualifications, patient care, quality assessment, facility management and safety.
• The Board for Certification/Accreditation, International (BOC) was established as a second credentialing body in 1984.
Like ABC, BOC both accredits facilities and certifies practitioners. Both programs are respected in the industry, but until recently ABC has generally been regarded as having had the more demanding certification requirements.
Credentialing Helps Ensure High-Level O&P Care
However, a recent historic agreement on minimum education and training requirements for O&P professionals treating Medicare beneficiaries promises to “standardize the standards” for those providing custom orthotic and prosthetic care. Leaders of the five major O&P advocacy, education and credentialing bodies in the U.S., including ABC and BOC, jointly recommended to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) minimum qualifications to sit for certification examination as one of the following options:
• A bachelor’s degree in orthotics and/or prosthetics as offered by a CAAHEP* -accredited institution;
• A bachelor’s degree plus a certificate in orthotics and/or prosthetics as offered by a CAAHEP* – accredited institution; or
• A foreign degree equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in orthotics or prosthetics or a foreign degree equivalent to a bachelor’s degree, plus a certificate in orthotics and/or prosthetics as offered by a CAAHEP* – accredited institution.
Besides clearing the air for CMS determination of who is appropriately qualified to provide O&P care for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, this agreement is generally seen as helping to ensure a high-level of O&P service delivery across the board.
For further information, including specifics of our staff credentials, we invite you to call our office. We are conveniently located throughout southeast Texas in Beaumont, Nederland and Jasper. Your initial consultation is complimentary.