One of the most important decisions that you will make as an amputee is how to choose a prosthetist. This will be the person whose job is to make sure you can function to the highest degree with your prosthetic device.
Like any caregiver, you should interview multiple prosthetists so that you know which one will work best for you. You’ll want to consider personality, their listening skills, their openness to finding the right device for you, their location, and their availability.
You will have prosthetists that have their own practice and those that have joined a large clinic, like Hangar. This is something you also need to consider as there are advantages and disadvantages to both.
How a prosthetist gets paid
It’s important to understand how a prosthetist gets paid because it can affect how your care is provided.
A prosthetist gets paid two different ways; through clinical hours and by selling you a prosthetic device. As a clinician, they will bill your insurance for the time spent with you based on what that time was for. This is no different than seeing your primary care physician.
When it comes to selling you a prosthetic device, prosthetists often make the most money when they are able to manufacture the device in-house or based on their agreement with a manufacturing company. Because of this, prosthetists may be resistant to offering solutions that they can’t make as much money on. For example, with lower limb amputees there are traditional sockets and adjustable sockets. Prosthetists are able to manufacture traditional sockets easily in-house, but it’s much more difficult to manufacture an adjustable socket, so the prosthetists might push a patient to go the traditional route instead of exploring adjustable options.
This can be the same with prosthetists that work in a clinic where they are incentivized to recommend devices that are manufactured within the clinic or by manufacturers that the clinic has an agreement with.
This is not to say that prosthetists aren’t motivated to provide you with great care, it’s just to inform you that there might be other factors at work when a prosthetist makes a recommendation.
Have your goals in mind
Before interviewing prosthetists, make sure you have your goals set as to what you want to accomplish with your prosthetic device. If you want to be active you need to communicate that up front. Let them know that you intend to run, bicycle, surf, ski, drive, jump rope, etc. Without knowing what you want to accomplish it will be hard to determine which prosthetist is best for you.
Questions to ask a prosthetist
Here’s a list of questions that I recommend that you ask prosthetists that you are interviewing. I will continue to update this post as more questions come up.
- How long have you been a prosthetist?
- What are your hours of operation?
- Which forms can I communicate with you? (Text, Email, Phone, etc)
- What is the process if I have an issue with my prosthetic device?
- Do you manufacture the prosthetic devices in-house?
- Will you provide a device that isn’t manufactured in-house?
- What are your relationships with the different manufacturers?
- Do any of your patients use adjustable sockets?
- Do you build the adjustable socket in-house or are they manufactured elsewhere?
- What are your thoughts about trying out new technologies?
- It’s a red flag if they aren’t willing to.
- What insurance providers do you work with?
- Are you willing to work with my primary care physician and/or members of my care team?
- Do you provide classes and support activities for amputees?
- How can you help me accomplish my goals? (See above)
If you find a prosthetist that you like but they aren’t in your insurance network, here’s a helpful post on the Amputee Coalition website.
One last note. Should you find a prosthetist that you like in the beginning, but later on they don’t seem to be working out, you need to find a new prosthetist. This is the same for any of your caregivers.
Hopefully this helps you in your journey to find a prosthetist that works for you. Feel free to leave any comments/questions below.