Will OT become extinct?

During an evening of discussing our profession, a fellow OT enthusiast lowered her voice and whispered: “Will our profession even exist in 25 years?”

OT won’t exist in its current form. In regards to adult rehab, if we don’t drop some of our bad habits our profession could easily be eclipsed by iPads and more cost-effective professionals. 

Here are some pitfalls, as I see them:

1.) We need to lose our image as professionals who issue adaptive equipment

I was concerned by the emphasis given at the recent AOTA Student Conclave to the T-Rex with the reacher. We are digging our own fossil-bed. A NYTimes article, published this fall, sums up the problem. A patient carefully examines his medical bill following a neck surgery, and comes to this conclusion about his OT services: 

He was puzzled by $679 in occupational therapy charges involving the delivery of a device to help him put on his socks, which he never used.

If our patients only remember getting issued an adaptive device during their session, we have a serious problem. I can see this task going to the nursing department in the future, as it would be a much more cost-effective way of delivering this basic service. 

2.) We can’t be professionals who give tips

“Maybe you should remove all area rugs….”

Giving patients a laundry list of safety tips is a far cry from having actual carry over into the home environment and truly facilitating a safe discharge. A much more effective way of delivering this standardized information, would be  an instructional video you can watch on an iPad before discharge... there would be no professional needed. 

3.) We need to lose our self-understanding as jacks-of-all trades. 

We need to be masters.  I have watched physical therapy positioning themselves as “movement experts.” I love how easy to understand their explanation of physical therapy is and how easily I can apply it to my own life. PT has been working on their branding. They have been focusing. OT on the other hand keeps broadening its definition to the point that it is hard to understand what we are truly experts of. There is a great discussion of this over at ABC Therapeutic.  

OT has been an adaptable and dynamic profession over its 100 year lifespan. We have a much needed perspective in the health profession and I hope that we continue to develop our areas of expertise to truly help people.

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