Making a Case for Amputee Case Managers
By Andrea Puckett
Recently, someone asked me, "Exactly what is your role as an amputee case manager?" I thought for a moment and said, "I help amputees and their families find a new normal." When new amputees are thrown into a world that is new to them, which is so often overwhelming, getting back to a "new normal" becomes their most important goal. Amputee case managers help them get there faster. We help to give them a voice and a choice in their recovery, and we help them navigate difficult, new waters.
My Personal JourneyWhen I met my husband Bobby, six years ago, I had not yet been introduced to the amputee world. It was all very new to me. Bobby lost both legs below the knee about five years before we met. And even though he had five years of experience, he didn't know much more than I did.
Bobby's first prosthetic facility and prosthetist were wonderful in helping him with his initial prosthesis but never really went much further than the prosthesis—not many follow ups, very little help with insurance questions, and no help for me as I was trying to manage between insurance, doctors' visits, family, etc.
Then, after moving to Florida, we found Jennifer Robinson, amputee case manager at Westcoast Brace & Limb, Tampa. After trying to navigate on our own, it was a breath of fresh air to have someone say, "You don't need to worry about those things. We will take care of everything. Just concentrate on your personal goals, and we will help you make those happen."
My Professional JourneyBeginning this journey, I quickly understood the challenges and frustrations that families and new amputees face. Whether it is the emotional, mental, and physical impact on an amputee's life, completing applications for services, fighting with insurance companies, or the strain of caregiving, I understand it firsthand. As someone with a background in social services and case management, I knew I wanted to join Jennifer and be a part of the solution. It is something I am personally and professionally passionate about.
The Role of an Amputee Case ManagerAmputee case managers educate and support new amputees and their families in so many ways. Some of the most important are:
- Negotiating insurance and alternative funding options.
- Helping the patient, family, and caregivers understand the psychosocial aspect of this new journey.
- Helping to motivate the person with limb loss to become an active participant in his or her own recovery.
- Acting as a liaison between O&P professionals, medical professionals, social workers, family, and more.
The Benefits of an Amputee Case Manager to Prosthetic ProfessionalsO&P organizations that choose to hire amputee case managers show prospective patients that they are dedicated to their overall care and well-being, and not just the prosthetic device component of the relationship. Bottom line, amputee case managers build trust and relationships that go beyond the typical practitioner/patient relationship. Amputee case managers create a more positive patient experience that generates new patients and retains existing ones. Amputee case managers increase operational efficiencies by handling incoming calls, answering questions, and taking some of the administrative burden off the prosthetist, along with dealing with the not-so-comfortable issues that may arise, like insurance and payments.
Where We Are Today
Currently, few O&P organizations understand the important role of an amputee case manager. From a professional perspective, I feel the organizations that choose to have an amputee case manager on staff separate themselves from their competition. These organizations anticipate, meet, and exceed the needs of their patients, and create "customers for life." From a personal perspective, as the wife of a bilateral transtibial amputee and a fierce advocate for amputee rights, amputee case managers are not a "nice-to-have" staff member. They are a "need-to-have" staff member.
Andrea Puckett is an amputee case manager for Westcoast Brace & Limb, Tampa, Florida. She holds an associate degree in applied science in mental health, chemical dependency, and developmental disabilities. This article was published in The O&P EDGE August 2011 edition.