COVID and CRT: ‘The whole flavor of stuff’ is going to change

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Friday, May 1, 2020

NEW YORK CITY – Gerry Dickerson, an ATP and CRTS who works the New York City area for National Seating & Mobility, says telehealth has moved from luxury to necessity amid the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what Dickerson, also the president of NRRTS, had to say how “the whole flavor of stuff” is going to change due to the crisis.

HME News: What’s it like in your area?

Gerry Dickerson: I live in western New Jersey, about a 45-minute drive from the George Washington Bridge, and my last day going into the city for work was March 12. Every outpatient clinic that I know of in the city has been closed for a month.

HME: How is NSM addressing the needs of patients in the New York City area?

Dickerson: We have a couple of guys that are still going out all PPE’d up. We had a tech deliver a Permobil to a patient’s home recently. The tech called me and said we did this and this and this, and we dialed in the OT involved. We all agreed everything looked great.

HME: It must be difficult for you not to be out in the clinic.

Dickerson: Every place is different, but in New York City, it’s Ground Zero. Everything is shut down. The only sounds you hear are ambulances bringing in people; refrigerated trucks keeping bodies cool; and pots and pans banging every night at 7 to thank the health care workers. So at least here, nothing is really transacting in the CRT world from a clinical level and it’s gut wrenching.

HME: Telehealth is a big buzzword these days—does it have a place in the provision of complex rehab?

Dickerson: There are some things we do with it already and I think there’s a lot more we can do. We need to resolve some issues like the OT or PT not being able to bill for telehealth and we can’t, either, but I’m fired up about it. It could easily be used for the initial evaluation. Think about if there were software incorporated that was capable of measurement. A smart phone could be used to scan a home and have all the info you need.

HME: Do you see providers using the connected capabilities of certain wheelchairs more?

Dickerson: I see us jumping on the connected wheelchair. It’s amazing what you can determine. Think about how much it costs to to go to someone’s house only to realize their chair was unplugged. If it’s connected, you can see when the last time it was charged without going anywhere.

HME: How are providers in hard hit areas like yours going to get through this period of slow or no referrals?

Dickerson: I just pray that everyone involved survives and thrives. These are good, hard working people.

HME: Outside of telehealth and remote technology, what has the complex rehab industry learned from the crisis?

Dickerson: I think there will be a broader and much better pandemic response organizational structure. Everyone from the president of this country to the ATP in the field was caught in this without a compass.