Editor’s Note

Complex Rehab Geniuses

Will this be the year you’re finally appreciated?

Recently, my father got a new Apple iMac. I accompanied him to the Apple store as his technical consultant because my far-smarter sister wasn’t available.

One of the questions we had for the salesperson was “What comes in the iMac box?” Short answer: the iMac, mouse and keyboard. There are also a power cord, software/setup CDs, the owner’s manual, two Apple logo decals and a chamois-like black cloth, all charmingly packaged in cellophane. But that’s it. When my dad said he wanted to transfer old files — mostly music and a few photos — from his now-ancient iBook to his new iMac, the Apple sales associate said they would happily do that. All we had to do was join Apple’s One to One membership program for $99. Not only would an Apple Genius transfer the files, but my dad could also receive face-to-face tutoring on how to use his new iMac. His membership fee would entitle him to talk to a Genius every day for a year, if he wanted to. But the membership only covered a one-time file transfer, plus training. For repair work past the iMac’s initial warranty, we could pay another fee to enroll in Applecare, basically an extended-warranty program that would cover the iMac for three years.

Sold! My dad walked away with his iMac, his One to One membership and Applecare. I set up the iMac at his home (i.e., I attached the power cord and plugged it in), and in no time, the iMac was playing a Star Trek DVD for my mom.

Everyone lived happily ever after.

Then I got back to the office a few days later and heard, like bad deja vu, that another mainstream media outlet — this time, AARP — had taken aim at the DME industry (see page 8, MMBeat). The charges are frustratingly redundant and out of context…in essence, “Why is Medicare paying double the MSRP for a wheelchair?”

NCART Executive Director Don Clayback explained, not for the first time, how the price of a wheelchair is not merely the total cost of aluminum, electronics and battery. Don explained that the cost must include everything from Medicare-mandated ATP involvement to “Drop-everything, come-help-me!” service and maintenance, to client training, to potentially infinite equipment adjustments as clients’ needs change.

I couldn’t help comparing this industry to my recent Apple experience. Generally speaking, when consumers purchase a product, they get…the product. An iMac box contains an iMac. If we want or need training beyond the owner’s manual, we pay. If we need repair, we pay or we buy the extended warranty. Either way, it’s our responsibility to drag the iMac back to the store: Geniuses they may be, but they don’t make house calls.

Apple is a successful business, which implies plenty of consumers pay for the extras they want. And Apple isn’t alone. Cars don’t include free driving lessons, ovens don’t come with complimentary cooking lessons from Rachael Ray, and when doctors write prescriptions during office visits, we pay separately for the drugs.

So why are rehab providers expected to throw in their expertise, labor and time for free?

Is this, at least partially, a marketing problem? Would we get further if we started calling our ATPs “Complex Rehab Geniuses”? I’m all for it if it would finally get MM readers the recognition they deserve.

This article originally appeared in the January 2010 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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