Click for our latest updates on COVID-19

Main Content

What is Complex Rehab Technology (CRT) and Why Does it Matter?

August 17, 2020

Complex rehab technology, usually called CRT, is a term that many people who use wheelchairs are familiar with, but it’s not known broadly and isn’t well understood. CRT refers to adaptive equipment for people with disabilities that is medically necessary and individually configured. This includes manual and power wheelchair systems, adaptive seating systems, alternative positioning systems, and other mobility devices that require evaluation, fitting, configuration, adjustment or programming. This is not an out-of-the-box hospital chair – it is more specialized equipment tailored to individuals’ specific needs to maximize their function and independence.

Access to CRT is vital for those who need it. Currently, specialized CRT items are included in the same Medicare benefit category as standard durable medical equipment (DME). The DME benefit was created many years ago in response to the mobility needs of elderly individuals. It is generally much simpler and less customized than CRT. For example, it is easy to see that a standard walker is very different from a power wheelchair that has tilt and recline seating functions, a posture backrest, and a skin protection and positioning cushion. Both the walker and the power wheelchair are essential pieces of equipment for their users; however, these more individually-configured products have been increasingly difficult to obtain due to reimbursement cuts and policy changes. To ensure better patient access to this equipment, advocates are focused on changing related federal and state legislation to create a separate benefit category for CRT.

CRT allows me to access the community independently, where in the past, I would need assistance as a C-4 quadriplegic. I am now able to live my life as active as I was prior to my injury!

John Morris, Craig Grad and Peer Mentor; CSU alumni; City of Fort Collins Commissions on Disabilities; former small business owner

So, why is this important? With an appropriate wheelchair and seating components, there can be drastic improvements in someone’s ability to be healthy, independent, and living a happy and fruitful life. CRT is important because it can reduce a patient’s pain, improve their breathing status by being more upright, provide stability so they have less fatigue, allow them to be repositioned and help them progress to independent transfers. Without CRT, patients can experience greater levels of pain, they might not reach the same level of mobility, and they are more likely to face other medical complications in the future.

Here at Craig Hospital, CRT is all around us. It is the custom manual wheelchair frame; it is the power tilt seating system. It is the cushion and hip guides; it is the solid backrest. As Maggie Dahlin, PT, DPT, ATP, a physical therapist at Craig shares, “CRT allows me to tailor equipment needs to the patient in order to help them realize their goals of independence.” Craig uses all of these components on a daily basis to assist our patients in getting back to the things they love. CRT is essential for health, for a fulfilling life and for us to be able to assist our patients at Craig.

The CRT community always needs your help! If you are interested, visit http://www.access2crt.com/ to find out more and for resources on how to contact your local representatives.

As an active person, my wheelchair must withstand heavy use and harsh environments, whether I am hiking, camping, traveling or simply on a stroll with a friend. Quality CRT keeps me active, healthy, and engaged.

Colin Heffern, Craig Grad & Peer Mentor, National Park Service Project Manager