Face to Face: Clay Barrow, CO

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Clay Barrow, CO, has an eye for information technology that's rare in the world of O&P professionals. The former independent software consultant came to O&P more than nine years after his 1995 graduation from Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) with a degree in general science. In the intervening years, he was a successful business owner and worked for a variety of companies, including Fortune 100 company Price Waterhouse. However, he and his freshman roommate at Penn State—Jeff Brandt, now a CPO and the CEO and founder of Ability Prosthetics & Orthotics, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—had stayed in touch, and Barrow liked where Brandt's life had gone. Barrow started an internship at Ability in 2004, graduated from Northwestern University's orthotics program in 2006, and while completing his residency in 2007, became a minority owner, vice president, chief technology officer, and chief operations officer at Ability. In 2008, he moved into a mostly corporate role to help Brandt develop the business. Now, this pick-up soccer player and father of three focuses on building a company that puts patients first while he personally keeps business at the forefront.

1. What has motivated you in your professional pursuits?

The small chip on the shoulders of Ability partners Jeff Brandt and Jeff Quelet, CPO, about the profession's history inspires me to make a difference in this field. Hearing horror stories has been a major factor in developing the Ability practice model, and it motivates me to continue refining the practice for the future.

2. What do you see in the future for O&P?

Obviously, with current political battles in Washington DC, O&P's future is hard to predict. One thing is certain: technology is trending up, as is the patient population. I think the massive population of diabetics will cause insurance companies to cut reimbursement. Unfortunately, we have seen some movement in this direction already, and it has affected coverage for non-diabetics as well.

3. What advice would you give to someone just entering the O&P profession?

Be certified by ABC in both orthotics and prosthetics. I feel that practitioners who are dual-certified can offer their referral sources and patients much better care overall. For the business owner, I would recommend that they put together a good team. Running a business while continuing to see patients has always stressed the owner/practitioner, but in today's world, it's getting harder to survive wearing both hats.

4. How do you set yourself apart from competing businesses?

The Ability model is patient-centric, not device centric. The practitioner concentrates solely on the care of the patient, not on the device. All fabrication is outsourced to companies that specialize in that type of device, thus producing the highest quality product.

5. What are your top priorities when working with a patient?

The top priorities for our patients are education, awareness, and understanding. We develop treatment plans that not only make sense clinically, but that can be explained to the patients, families, and physicians alike. I can't tell you how many long-term orthotic patients have said, "That's the first time anyone has been able to explain why my brace does this or why it comes up to here." We also make our patients aware of their potential financial obligations up front. Ability prides itself on never having a patient say, "I didn't know it would cost that much!" With copays and deductibles increasing, this has never been a more relevant aspect of running an O&P facility.