One of my beloved memories of growing up in Los Angeles was having lunch at the
original Tommy’s Hamburgers, a colorful little shack always trailing a long line of
customers out its parking lot. I loved Tommy’s hot dogs, and even as an impatient
6-year-old, I never minded the line because it moved so fast. Grown-ups ordered at the right
side of the counter, then moved to the left to pay. By the time they put down their money, their
orders were filled and waiting in flimsy cardboard boxes.
The secret to Tommy’s speed was the person taking the orders. Only new customers — or the
hopelessly optimistic — asked for extra onions or to hold the tomatoes. Everyone else knew that
Tommy’s workers only made hamburgers and hot dogs two ways: Plain (my preference) or with
everything on it. Regardless of the special requests, the order-taker smiled, nodded and ignored.
Any customer who didn’t like it could try his luck at the echoingly empty burger competitor
across the street.
I now write about an industry that could not have a more different attitude when it comes to
special orders. As I was chatting with Invacare’s Lois Brown — one of our clinician participants
in this month’s Best Picks story (page 12) — I mentioned that complex rehab professionals seem
to almost revel in the opportunity to create a customized seating or mobility solution, even if the
system they create will literally help only one person.
I cannot think of another consumer-targeted industry that thinks this way. How many pharmaceutical
companies would jump at the chance to create a medication that would lower blood
pressure for only one patient? Would a software company want to create an app that worked for
only one user?
Yet, our two major stories this issue very powerfully celebrate the importance of the individual
— as in, the importance of each and every client you work with.
For our Best Picks cover story, we asked our editorial advisory board and clinical consultants,
along with MM readers, to tell us about seating & mobility technology they’ve been most
impressed with recently. And in tallying up their choices, I learned that at least some of what
constitutes a Best Pick is in the eye of the beholder. Participants offered up their favorites based
on what performance characteristics are important to their clients — and therefore, important
to the clinicians and providers themselves.
That theme can also be found in our story on cushion design (page 24). The goal of the story
was to identify how a wheelchair seat cushion’s design elements — its contours, profile and
construction — impact its performance, with the goal of matching up those performance goals
with specific client needs, such as skin integrity and stability.
What we found is that while the design elements can indeed play a huge role in positive
client outcomes, prioritizing which outcomes are most important — and therefore determining
which design elements are most important — is a process that the seating & mobility team must
tackle one client at a time.
Over and over, through the creation process of both stories, I heard the same basic refrain:
No matter how wonderful it might be, no single product in this highly complex industry is the
perfect answer for every client in every situation. And the folks contributing to this month’s
stories seemed completely OK with that fact. In fact, they seemed to take pride in the individualized
nature of their work, regardless of whether that seating system or wheelchair is relatively
plain or needs everything on it.