Super Client: What Makes an Ideal Relationship

By Jeffrey Green

Rehabilitation technology suppliers’ (RTS) work is difficult and exacting. To choose exactly the right wheelchair and positioning components and then to use them to build a customized seating or mobility system requires exceptional care and exhaustive thoroughness.  

As with any health-care professional, your RTS wants to build a solid working relationship with you, and you play as important a role in making that relationship work as your RTS.

So, what do RTS’s expect? How can you and your family work with your RTS to ensure the best possible outcome?

We put these questions to two professionals in the field: Michael Dueñas, an RTS for Adorno Mobility in Dallas, and Patricia Henley, a physical therapist with the Baylor Institute for Rehab before recently joining the educational department at The ROHO Group, a wheelchair cushion manufacturer. Neither hesitated to name the top things that make for an ideal client.

Documentation from physicians heads Dueñas’ list. “If clients come in with at least the prescription, we don’t have to back up a step or two before getting started,” he says. The prescription “starts the clock ticking,” he says, and more efficiently clears the way for a needs assessment. For Henley, consumer education and awareness are the highest priorities. “There are some people who learn everything, but they’re the minority,” she says. “They need to know what they need their equipment to do.”  

Dueñas says the second most important thing for clients to understand is they’re just beginning a journey that is both emotional and physical. “We live in a culture that has a drive-through mentality,” he says. “Clients need to come prepared for a very measured and precise approach. It’s very much a process, and it’s important not to be impatient.” Number two for Henley: “Have an open mind. Don’t assume that something your friend has will also work for you.” All clients are different, she explains, even when their injuries or conditions are similar. Nevertheless, she has seen clients reject her recommendations merely because they want a chair like their friend’s. The results were discomfort and suboptimal therapeutic results.  

Third most important is for clients to be what Dueñas calls “team players, not just receivers.” He encourages his clients not to be passive, but to get involved in their treatment and take an active role in nudging insurance companies, physicians and therapists when they need a push to complete paperwork or attend to a claim. Henley’s third suggestion is for clients to choose rehab technology suppliers based on their credentials and professional reputations, instead of just choosing the supplier who can offer the lowest prices. “Cost should not be a deciding factor,” she says. “What you need is what you need, and clients shouldn’t assume (suppliers who sell more expensive equipment) are just trying to make a buck.”

Number four for Dueñas is what he calls forward adaptability. “I want my clients to understand that we’re not just building a solution for the present,” he says. “I don’t want to paint them into a corner” with devices that can’t be modified, extended and adapted as their needs change, he says. “Doing this right is not as simple as ordering a chair that you can fold up and throw in the truck.” Henley agrees that clients need to consider the future — even if they’re having trouble adjusting to their present situations. She remembers former spinal cord injury clients who were not yet ready to accept that their conditions were permanent, but adds that RTS’s and therapists still need “to plan for the future on their behalf” when making home medical equipment recommendations.

The last of Dueñas’ top priorities: follow-up. “If there’s an issue, get back to your RTS or the therapy staff,” he says. “We’re really building a relationship, so, when things change, if something wasn’t taken into account at the beginning, clients need to (follow up) and not wait until an emergency arises.”

 Henley wraps up her list of suggestions by urging seating and mobility clients to take ownership of their seating and mobility solutions. “I want them to take an active role in the fight for the right equipment,” she says. “There’s nothing luxurious about having the equipment you need, and they may need to call insurance companies and case managers to make the case. There’s no one as persuasive as clients themselves.”

This article originally appeared in the September 2007 issue of Mobility Management.

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