Dynamic Seating Poised to Move Mobility Market Forward

How big an impact will dynamic seating make on the complex rehab market this decade? "We'll see more people asking for this option, and folks who design new products will have to listen or risk getting left behind," says Sam Durgin, who is involved with product design at Rifton Equipment in New York.

He's being conservative.

Eli Anselmi, the director of sales at Kids UP Inc., believes "This is the future of seating." His sales numbers are bearing that out, as the small manufacturer is on track to earn $3.2 million in sales this year, one chair at a time, at prices between $695 and $785 suggested retail.

Rifton's foray into this niche began as a marketing idea, based on the fact that the office chair industry has long recognized it's good for workers to wiggle in their seats, redistribute weight and change posture. On the other side of the country, Kids UP, at the urging of the medical community, began participating in studies at Montana State University that involved pressure mapping and six cameras to create a motion tracking analysis. Both research teams came to the same conclusion: Dynamic seating that moves as its user moves offers a wide range of benefits to several audiences.

For cerebral palsy (CP) patients, the lower-extremity range of motion improved, muscle spasticity trended toward the mid range of the scale, and the children showed marked improvements in self-care, mobility and social function categories. Anecdotally, they're sleeping through the night since spasticity does not build in their muscles. Likewise, dynamic seating serves as a therapy form for hypotonic patients, enabling some users to sit on the chair without head supports after a year, according to Kids UP's reports.

"I tell therapists, 'Find your toughest client and let's put them on the chair,'" Anselmi says. "Dynamic seating has worked for every single one of them."

Trial Runs

Manufacturing isn't without its challenges, of course. To withstand the strength CP patients can exert, Durgin turned to the tool and die industry for compression springs made to withstand millions of compression cycles. It was also important for Rifton to find a tool-free way of turning off the flexibility, so the chair could be used to hold food at times, too. Kids UP's researchers realized it needed to ensure a child's pivoting points maintain the same geometry through the motion ranges to allow the muscles their complete freedom.

Until January 1, 2009, Medicare funding did not offer a code for dynamic seating, and the generic K0108 presented extra documentation work for vendors. Then Kids UP won the HCPCS code assignment E2295 on its first try in late 2008, and sales began to climb.

Now education remains the final frontier. "My uphill battle has been showing that we have an alternative to the standard practice, " says Anselmi. The good news: The argument is not that it's technically impossible, just that therapists have not seen it done before.

And that's a situation both Durgin and Anselmi know they can remedy. "I want to get kids on the chairs, see their relaxed hands and smiles. That, to me, is worth all the production schedules, paperwork and headaches," says Anselmi.

About the Author

Award-winning journalist Julie Sturgeon of CEOEditor, Inc., is an online contributing writer for Mobility Management.

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