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Choosing a prosthetic provider can be overwhelming. People are often faced with this choice while in a state of shock, grief, or serious illness. If this describes your situation, rest assured that you are not alone and that thousands of others have found their way through. Take a deep breath and remember: you will too.
At times it may feel like you’re visiting a strange country where people speak a language you don’t understand. There is a lot to learn and to make it a little easier; here is a list of key considerations to keep in mind. Unlike your surgeon, physical therapist, or even some of your friends, you will continue to see your prosthetic provider throughout your lifetime. It will be important to have a provider you can develop a good rapport with and that you truly believe has your best interests in mind. Open, direct communication is the center of a successful patient-prosthetist relationship. Clearly, this relationship will be easier to build if your prosthetic provider is located relatively close to where you live. Choosing your prosthetist will be one of the most important decisions you make. It is important that you interview several prosthetists and decide, on your own, who will work best to get you back to living life to the fullest. Remember you have a choice of providers.After your surgery you will have a few weeks of recovery and healing. This is the ideal time to schedule appointments with prospective prosthetists for interviews and assessments.
Below is a list of suggested questions to take with you when you visit a prosthetist for the first time. The answers you receive to these questions will assist in deciding the right prosthetist for you.• What are your credentials?• How long have you practiced in this area?• Why did you get into this line of work? • What types of continuing education are you required to complete? And why?• What has been your experience working with amputees of my level?• What type of prosthesis would you recommend for me?• Why do you think this prosthesis would work best for me?• With all of the prosthetic developments out there will I be getting the most advanced technology available?• Can you show me an example of the type of prosthesis you would provide for me?• How long will it take, from start to finish, for me to receive my prosthesis?• How long will my appointments take?• Can members of my family attend appointments with me?• Can you explain in detail the process you will use to fit me?• How will the prosthesis attach to my body?• What types of activities will I be able to do with the type of device you are proposing?• Will you accept my insurance and secure any necessary prior approvals for my care?• What type of warranty will you provide for my new prosthesis?• How long will this device last before I need to have it replaced?• Will follow up visits cost me anything?• Can you put me in touch with a patient that you have fitted with the same type of device so that I may ask some questions?• Do you have anyone that I can talk to should I need emotional support?• If I were to have a sudden issue with my prosthesis, how long would it take for me to be seen?• What do I do if I am out of town and need adjustments to my prosthesis?
It’s difficult to adapt to being a prosthetic user, yet it is encouraging to know that prosthetic technology is constantly advancing. Lightweight materials like titanium and flexible plastics combine with microprocessors and touch sensors to create prosthetic limbs with exceptional function. Advanced designs and processes such as Hanger’s ComfortFlex™ Socket and Insignia™ Laser Scanning System, mean that today’s prosthetic users will enjoy more comfort and freedom than was possible just a few years ago. It is critical that your provider has access to the very latest innovations that technology has to offer.
Prosthetics is an art and a science. Prosthetists possess a unique set of skills obtained through both education and experience. Always inquire about a clinician’s qualifications and experience, and ensure that they are certified or licensed. Just as physicians and physical therapists must stay up to date with continuing education, prosthetists should also participate in on-going advanced training.
Some providers have programs that address specific levels of prosthetic care. This means that whether you need an above-knee or below-knee prosthesis or an upper extremity prosthesis clinicians that specialize in those unique disciplines manage your care.
From your first phone call to your latest adjustment, you want a provider who will lay a smooth path in front of you. Is there a support staff that will take charge of issues such as insurance authorization, filing claims, dealing with Medicare, or setting up financing or payment plans? Are there patient care representatives who advocate for you, answer your questions, and take the time to help with your concerns? Will you be given the opportunity to meet other prosthetic users and learn about their experiences?
Sometimes people select a prosthetic provider and then later decide the relationship is not what they had hoped for. If this is the case for you, think about what you’re looking for and then set out to find a different provider. Most prosthetic clinics offer complimentary initial consultations. Although it’s not always easy to make a change, getting what you need and moving forward in your recovery is well worth the effort.
Amputation is not the end but a new beginning. You will have lots of questions, anxieties, and decisions. Your functional outcome will be profoundly affected by the information you receive and the attitude you have.
Interested in a free evaluation? Call 1-877-4HANGER to find the closest Hanger Clinic location specializing in prosthetic care.