Packer Perspective: Introducing The DMERT Group: How To Ensure Quality Standards For The CRT Industry

Published in Complex Rehab on May 03, 2018

I was just in Washington, D.C., working with members of the CRT industry to make sure we are recognized by our congressional elected officials. The National Coalition for Assistive & Rehab Technology (NCART) and the National Registry of Rehabilitation Technology Suppliers (NRRTS) worked together to coordinate this event and manage the visits on Capitol Hill. It is this great joint effort, along with the AAHomecare Fly-In, that has given our industry the recognition that it currently has. We have become an industry that many of the offices on of each side of the House and Senate recognize when we walk in to advocate for the CRT industry.

At U.S. Rehab, we have been working on another program for the last year or so that will grant even more credibility to our industry. The Durable Medical Equipment Repair and Training (DMERT) Group is a relatively new industry organization intended to provide proper certification to repair technicians. With this type of certification, we can increase the credibility of repair technicians and who they really are, which are intelligent, repair-minded individuals. This organization has a firm foundation and is advancing in developing the certification for repair technicians that work in the DME and CRT arena.

We all know that as providers we can repair the equipment we put out and that it is important for our businesses to be bonded and accredited within the industry. Bonding and accreditation are not cheap, yet they are a requirement by Medicare and some private insurance companies in order to do business. We also know that providers are supposed to repair their own equipment. What we see in the market, however, is that our equipment sometimes gets repaired by someone who is not as familiar with its design and function. Some people may think that some fixes are so simple and easy, so why couldn’t someone off the street help repair the equipment? One of the biggest frustrations we experience in our industry is when individuals outside of the CRT industry lack the necessary expertise and try to repair equipment, and they fail to recognize the consequences when they are unable to make the equipment meet the medical need it was intended for originally. 

Individuals within the industry have spent years getting trained and have a vast understanding of the equipment that is sold and serviced. We do understand that proper maintenance and repairs extends the life of the equipment, and that will reduce the overall cost of the equipment in the long run. Today, payment is not adequate because payers determine the cost of repairs and maintenance to be lower due to competitive bidding results. We are working on fighting this, along with determining real time and repair cost for the industry. We need to be highly trained and efficient today to repair equipment, but we also should not have to compete with individuals that lack the expertise and knowledge to fix CRT equipment. When unqualified people try to fix complex equipment, there is a risk of future issues with it. For example, an electrically or mechanically inclined neighbor may try to help his friend fix their Group 3 power chair. But because he doesn’t not know what he is doing, he ends up potentially harming the end user or harming the equipment just because he was trying to help. There isn’t a currently recognized certification stopping the neighbor from helping. That’s what the DMERT Group is creating. The DMERT Group helps technicians get qualified and receive a certification that proves they can complete a repair properly. 

The power and manual wheelchair equipment market is classified as medical devices. The medical devices should work properly to maintain the health and wellness for the user. U.S. Rehab has developed a large volume of online and in-person training programs to help technicians stay sharp and feel prepared to tackle any variety of repair task, small or large. CRT equipment is constantly changing, and we need to continue to change with it. CMS requires technicians to have 10 hours of continuing education per year specific to rehab technology. U.S. Rehab has the ability to give you those credits online and in person through our education courses. These courses are approved by accrediting bodies so you can be assured they meet the high standards for education in our industry.  

The DMERT Group will be able to provide qualified technicians with the certificate of completion that proves their understanding of industry knowledge. The courses within the DMERT certification were developed by VGM/U.S. Rehab and FIOS DME Repair and Training, who have developed educational programs for the CRT industry for more than 20 years. The DMERT courses are divided into three levels, each reflecting the different types of equipment. The DMERT Group has taken it to the next level by establishing written exams that represent the tech’s competency by understanding the repair requirements for the equipment reflected in the DMERT education levels.

The DMERT Group also created the challenge exam, which is taken in person and contains a hands-on element. The challenge exam is intended to test the technician on their ability to both understand why and how to repair equipment, and to perform that repair within a time frame that is effective and efficient. The challenge exam extends written knowledge by testing the tech on their execution of tasks and how their performance adheres to a quality standard and time frame of acceptable levels. This two-pronged approach will help ensure the credibility and competence of the CRT industry at the level needed to protect its integrity.

Also, the DMERT Group is working to protect the integrity of the manufacturers, as they are in need of assurance that their equipment is repaired by qualified and trained technicians at all times. Manufacturers face the possibility of costly liability issues from poor or improper equipment maintenance. With the establishment of the DMERT Group and the competency and written exams, we are making our industry a better place to work and improving the well-being of our customers. VGM and U.S. Rehab continue to promote credibility and awareness of the industry we live and work in each and every day. With certified technicians that are educated through credentialed sources, it will give more consistency and efficiencies to the industry and medical repair profession.

With continued reduction in reimbursement levels, we are working to gather a better understanding of the actual maintenance and repair work that technicians complete each and every day. With the current reimbursement rates for parts, such as batteries, it becomes harder to operate at a profitable level. The DMERT Group is working to study the industry to make sure providers are able to repair equipment and maintain it at a profitable level of operation. U.S. Rehab has tools that can help repair departments identify actual time spent and parts cost. The work we are doing is to monitor repairs is to track cost and time utilized to complete these repairs to determine the average time to complete and cost of parts. With this data, we can present information to CMS on the true cost and time involved in repairing the equipment we work on each and every day.

It is this program that will keep our industry at a level that we can all continue to keep our door open and keep our customers happy. U.S. Rehab and VGM continue to invest in the future of your business and the industry as whole to maintain a safe, healthy work environment with quality products and services delivered at a reasonable cost for the patients we serve.

For more information on the DMERT Group, please visit https://www.dmertgroup.com/.

Greg Packer

Greg.Packer@vgm.com

(800) 987-7342

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