SAN DIEGO – Medtrade Spring attendees who visited the New Product Pavilion made their votes count on day three at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. With all votes counted, the Providers’ Choice Awards (sponsored by HomeCare Magazine) yielded gold, silver, and bronze winners.
This week, we take a closer look at the Providers’ Choice Silver Award. The prize went to the LifeWalker™ Upright Walker, the caretailing brainchild of David A. Purcell. As founder and president of San Diego-based ProtoStar Inc, the 78-year-old Purcell sought a new take on the familiar walker.
His invention resonated powerfully with Medtrade Spring attendees who were looking for new items to boost cash sales and genuinely help patients. Medtrade Monday chatted with Purcell to find out more about his innovative new product
Greg Thompson, editor, Medtrade Monday: Why do you think your product won a Providers’ Choice?
David A. Purcell, founder and president, ProtoStar Inc, San Diego, Calif: I designed this for people who need to continue walking, and there hasn’t been anything out there that people could take outdoors or really anything in the P.T. department that they just really feel comfortable and safe with. People get our product and try it, and they just seem to understand it. It helps people, and that’s how I designed it. I worked for more than a year just doing drawings, working with my wife, doing measurements, ergonomic studies, and trying to make it so it turned out the way it needed to for my wife, who is disabled.
Thompson: What are your plans for the product?
Purcell: Every product is a work in progress. This machine is therapeutic as it stands. It’s very good, and we will continue to make it better. We will have other machines which are even further improved. As you design a product, you don’t know how it is going to work when you prototype it, or when you mark it up. You do user tests. I did user tests with my wife, with patients, and at a University of California, San Diego user group study. They wanted to take the mark up home. It was very therapeutic for those people in that study. That study is online in our website (www.protostar.us).
Thompson: When did you know you had a real “winner” of a product?
Purcell: If you look at the people, they love it. It was like magic, so I said, ‘Ok, lets take it from here and make it much better, and we’ve got to make it so that we can produce it in volume.’ We were designed for manufacturability. We had to make it lighter weight. We wanted shock absorbers on it, and no one has ever put shock absorbers on these things. We wanted it to have cushions on the hands for people who have arthritis. We improved it, and we keep improving it. We are in production. We finished production units and I love the machine.
Thompson: Are you ready for providers to start carrying your product?
Purcell: We are shipping in April 2016. We have pre production units which we are showing and putting out now. We are still looking for dealers, and once they see the machine it’s not hard to sign them up. They get it pretty much right away.
Thompson: Would you describe this is as a “caretailing” product?
Purcell: It is a private pay product that is not covered by Medicare, so it has to be a dealer that has that kind of market opportunity since people have to pay for these themselves. If patients want it, they will have to pay for it.
Thompson: What additional feedback have you heard?
Purcell: I had a meeting with former surgeon general, and he walked in the machine, and he said, “I get it, there is nothing like this.” He said this would be just fabulous for helping people continue to walk who otherwise might be in a wheelchair. I’ve been asked to do a pediatric walker, and I said I want to do one. I absolutely want to help kids. Because if we can keep them walking longer, and this is true with adults too, they won’t go into a wheelchair and gain 50 pounds.
My reason for doing this is to help people and keep them in good health. I was retired for 12 years, and now I am leaving retirement for life. I sold my prior company to Kodak, retired, and now I am doing something that I am truly passionate about.
Thompson: Do you have plans to be at Medtrade Atlanta, scheduled for Oct 31-Nov 3, 2016?
Purcell: We don’t know just yet. The Medtrade Spring show in Las Vegas was really successful for us. We picked up really good dealers, so we will see.