View the previous video in the series: Parts of a Prosthesis
View the next video in the series: The Casting Procedure
Meeting Your Practitioner
What to look for in your practitioner
Establishing a good working relationship with your practitioner is absolutely vital. It’s important to remember that you are in control of your own health and prosthetic care, you’re the consumer and you’ll have many different practitioners to choose from, so selecting a prosthetist that you work well with is essential. It is always a good idea to meet with several practitioners in person prior to selecting one to ensure they make a good fit. Ask yourself these questions as you are making your selection:
- Can I communicate well with my practitioner?
In order for your prosthesis to be built correctly, your practitioner will rely upon your feedback throughout the fitting process. It’s very important that you and your practitioner can communicate in an open, comfortable and constructive manner. Developing mutual honesty and trust takes a bit of time and it’s both parties’ responsibility. A huge portion of communication is listening. Make sure you and your practitioner listen to one another and fully understand the other’s perspective.
- Is my practitioner competent?
Not all practitioners are created equally! It is in your best interest to work with a practitioner who not only has a high level of skill, but is familiar with a diverse range of methods , techniques and products. It’s best to ensure your practitioner isn’t one-dimensional and that you’re confident in their ability to provide you with the most appropriate option. Make sure your practitioner stays abreast of emerging technologies as well as updates and trends regarding prosthetic insurance coverage issues.
- How is my practitioner’s bedside manner?
You’ll want to be certain your practitioner is sensitive to your individual needs as well as having a personality that’s compatible with yours. Your practitioner should maintain a professional relationship, and respect your dignity and privacy. A major component of a good bedside manner is the ability to listen. You should feel confident that your practitioner listens intently to you so that you share the same goals and are effectively working towards them.
The office staff in your practitioner’s office are also an essential part of your overall prosthetic care. The office staff perform many functions that directly affect you such as scheduling your appointments, communicating with your insurance company on your behalf as well as conducting any financial transactions with you. It’s a great idea to get to know and establish a rapport with them.
The Prosthetist’s Office
To get you familiar with your practitioner’s office, it will most likely contain the following:
- Reception Area – Just like any doctor’s office, the reception area is where you check in for your appointments
- Exam Room – This is a private room used for conducting clinical evaluations where your practitioner will examine and take impressions of your limb. Sometimes the exam room and the gait room are one in the same.
- Gait Room – This is a private room that contains parallel bars for walking. Your practitioner will observe you walk many, many laps in the bars to assess the alignment and performance of the prosthesis. Sometimes the gait room and exam room are one in the same.
- Lab – This is the area where your practitioner uses specialized machinery to make adjustments to your prosthesis. For safety purposes, patients aren’t allowed entry.
The Initial Consult
The initial consultation is when you meet with your practitioner to assess your overall situation and construct a plan of care. Your practitioner will examine your residual limb, overall strength and flexibility, gather various measurements and data. You’ll also discuss your way of life, any other health concerns/considerations, employment, vocation, hobbies, activity level prior to your amputation, living environment, environmental barriers, insurance coverage, etc. All of this data is used to establish your functional level and determine the most appropriate componentry used in your prosthesis. Your practitioner compiles all of this data to create medical documentation that becomes an official component of your medical record.
How Your Insurance Provider Influences Your Prosthesis
After your practitioner has gained a greater understanding of your case and you’ve worked together to establish realistic goals, you’ll establish a timeline for each step of the prosthetic process. Be prepared to allow some “mental/emotional flexibility” during this process. Here’s why…
It’s at this point that your practitioner will submit all their medical documentation to your insurance provider. Both you and your practitioner want to get you walking again as soon as it’s sensible, but it’s very important to realize that if you’re acquiring your prosthetic services through your insurance provider, a major factor contributing to the timeline involved in when you receive your prosthesis is determined by a necessary evil known as “authorization”.
To avoid excessive, frivolous and potentially fraudulent claims, most insurance providers require their ability to review the Plan of Care your practitioner has submitted. The authorization process in conducted by a specialized staff member working for your insurance company. The review the Plan of Care and determine if it meets what known as their “formulary.” The Formulary is the insurance company’s rulebook containing the policies and procedures that determine if the Plan of Care is “medically necessary” or “medically justified.” The length of time involved in the authorization process varies from one insurance provider to another, ranging from 7-14 days, so keep this in mind initially in the process and realize that the authorization process is completely out of the hands of your practitioner!
Once all the appropriate paperwork is in place and the authorization has been obtained, it’s time for The Casting Procedure!
A Few Pointers…
- There is a lot to cover during the Initial Consult, and sometimes so much information will be thrown at you that it can seem overwhelming. If possible, bring a loved one with you the appointment for moral support. It’s always a good idea to have a second pair of ears present to soak up all the information.
- If you’ve never been to your practitioner’s office before, make sure you have good directions, a clear understanding of the parking situation there and leave with plenty of extra time so you don’t feel rushed or anxious.
- You’ll most likely need to fill out some paperwork during your Initial Consult appointment, so arrive early to do so.
- Don’t forget to bring your Insurance Card and identification.
- If you require glasses to read, bring them! You’ll need to sign forms during this appointment, so you’ll want to be able to read them.
View the next video in the series: The Casting Procedure