In Support of a Unified O&P

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By Matt Perkins

Eighteen years ago, I exhibited at my first tradeshow with Coyote Design. We were at the Western and Midwestern Orthotic and Prosthetic Association meeting in Reno, Nevada. The show, featuring just table exhibits, had row after row of exhibitors and plenty of attendees meandering through the exhibit hall. We were busy, and there was a lot of excitement about our new venture as a result.

Since that time, I have exhibited at many of the shows our profession offers. I have made it to almost every state show, and at one point, was attending over 20 shows per year. But as time passed, the shows have become less attended, and less effective as a marketing tool. This includes our three national shows.

None of the shows hosted by the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA), the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (the Academy), and Hanger seem to be as busy as they once were. But more importantly, they are not as energized as they should be. I wouldn't consider bringing a prospective client or investor to a recent national show to introduce them to O&P. The exhibit halls are quiet; the excitement is non-existent. Only in the bar does the show seem lively. The shows make it feel as though our profession is dying, even though it's one of the most exciting times to be in O&P.

Our national organizations also seem to have unusual taste for our meeting locations. I have been to New Orleans during Fat Tuesday four times, I have been to Florida during hurricane season, and I have been to Chicago in February several times. I don't typically choose to travel toward hurricanes, winter storms, or crowded messes.

This year in particular demonstrated tone-deaf planning when one of our national meetings was held in Canada. To make this worse, Canada's biennial O&P show was held one month earlier. Not only did we not meet in conjunction, we didn't meet in one of their off years.

Why do we have multiple national shows every year? Why does almost every state have a show? Why do we need so many different organizations? Texas even has multiple organizations. We are a small profession, and we seem to be doing everything we can to appear even smaller than we are.

If large corporations can see the value in mergers to reduce redundant functionality, why can't the Academy and AOPA? Aside from the benefit of having one annual show that offers the sort of energy and attendance we should expect from a national O&P event, under one organization we can also come together faster to fight reimbursement and legislative issues. We were slow to react to the Medicare audits and could be more proactive as one group. Why not come together at a single national meeting for in-depth discussions about the issues affecting O&P?

Are our organizations serving us in a way that they should be, or are we serving them? We are a small profession; it's time to start banding together so that we can defend our profession and legislate the kind of position in the healthcare market we deserve.

Matt Perkins is the president and CEO of Coyote Prosthetics and Coyote Design, headquartered in Boise, Idaho. He can be reached at perk@coyotedesign.com.