This past September, WebPT hosted its fifth annual Ascend conference in Phoenix, Arizona. After two days of in-depth educational sessions and inspiring keynote addresses, it was our pleasure to announce the 2018 Practice of the Year winner. What does it take to be the Ascend Practice of the Year? Aside from hitting goals like their name is Gretzky, winners have to be real movers and shakers in the rehab therapy sphere—and have the data to back it up. And this year’s winner, MTI Physical Therapy, certainly hit the mark. After more than 20 years in business, this multi-location practice is making major waves in the profession—with no signs of slowing down. I had the chance to gain some firsthand insight into MTI’s success from the company’s vice-president, Scott Olson, PT, MOMT, FAAOMPT. Check out our Q&A below:

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Tell me a bit about your clinic.

MTI's roots lie with our three owners (Jim Rivard, Brian Power, and me), who all went through the Ola Grimsby Institute's (OGI) inaugural two-year manual therapy residency program in Seattle from 1990-1991. All three of us attended the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA, with Brian and Jim in the class of ’88 and me graduating in ’86.

When we finished that two-year program, we were really energized and excited about what we were doing clinically. We felt we’d happened upon something really transformative and state-of-the-art in our field. We went on to complete Part Two, which was another two-year program taught by Ola himself in San Diego, CA. So, we commuted from Seattle to San Diego one weekend a month for those two years to further our knowledge and skills.

As a result, we became even better clinicians—and ended up wanting to become instructors for the OGI. Once we reached that goal and began teaching this material—first locally as co-instructors in the Seattle Part One program, then nationally, and ultimately, internationally—we were truly committed to the discipline of manual therapy and felt there was no better or more effective way to treat patients in the outpatient private sector.

What led to your decision to become a teaching clinic? Why do you place such a heavy emphasis on education?

When we first started conceptualizing the ideal PT clinic back in the mid-’90s, we thought it needed to be one in which PTs would not only go through rigorous manual therapy residency training, but also have instructors right there in the clinic with them, turning that new knowledge into a real-world, real-time educational experience. It's one thing to sit in a classroom and learn about these concepts—but it's another to learn about it in labs, acquiring technical skill by actually performing the evaluative and treatment techniques with an experienced instructor and treating real patients with real pathology. We felt there was no better way to ramp-up new therapists than to shepard them through the residency training and guide them clinically via one-to-one mentoring.

It sounds like you also place a lot of emphasis on the patient experience. How would you describe the patient experience in your practice, and how has this contributed to your success?

When we started the practice, my partners and I were all "refugees" from a big, corporate behemoth healthcare company that used a very volume-driven practice model. This didn't really sit well with us or fit with what we felt was the best and most effective method of practice. So, we decided that our practice needed to be solely a one-to-one model, where patients would see their therapist (without aides, assistants, techs, or trainers) for a full hour. We started with this from day one in 1998, and it resonated immediately with our patients.

Here, in our flagship Bellevue office, we were fortunate enough to get to know a physiatrist who was also just starting her practice and was very familiar with manual therapy. She began to send us all of her patients who needed PT, and those patients were often pulled out of care elsewhere. There were indeed a lot of eye-opening moments for our patients who had been seen in other PT practices. We were different from the get-go, and this made an impression on them. They enjoyed and benefited from our one-to-one model, and this created a groundswell of raving fans. This has continued to be our emphasis and is still our model in all of our practice sites 20 years later.

During your acceptance speech, you mentioned that for 20 years, MTI Physical Therapy “has continued to evolve in step with the latest research evidence and technology.” What kind of role has tech played in cultivating MTI’s growth? How has it impacted your ability to connect with and treat patients?

There is no question that advances in technology have played a vital role in allowing our practice to maintain the leading-edge mindset we had when we started. We were among the first practices to adopt an EMR system over 10 years ago. We were also among the first to give our PTs iPads on which to document. I was the developer of the VHI Orthopedic Kit of home exercise cards back in 1990, and when VHI went to an electronic version, we also stayed in step with that. By sending home exercise instructions—along with high-quality illustrations—electronically to patients, we were able to offer our patients leading-edge, high-tech solution.

As tech has advanced, so too has our ability to communicate with our patients through real-time home exercise instruction and through WebPT Reach, a software that allows us to communicate other information to patients and keep in touch with them after they’ve discontinued formal care. On the treatment side, the OGI institute—where all of our PTs receive their post-grad training—is continually evolving and transforming as new research appears and is vetted out. So, we are continually upgrading the quality of care that our PTs deliver, always leading the charge and never following.

What’s in store for your practice in the future? How would you like to see it grow and change?

We plan to continually grow and evolve. Each year, we are more sought-after by new grads seeking employment than the year before. PTs who want to become the best of the best are drawn to our culture. And we keep our people around—thanks to our "train and retain" model. Our current emphasis is placing PT at the forefront of musculoskeletal medicine. We have physiatrist colleagues who truly believe that as well, and they actually encourage patients to seek evaluation and treatment with us first before entering into their physical medicine and rehabilitation system. My partners and I plan on propelling not only our practice, but also our entire profession in this direction, knowing that with our advanced knowledge and training, no one is better suited to function as point-person in musculoskeletal medicine.

Thank you for sharing your insight and experience with us, Scott! And congratulations to the entire MTI team. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for your practice and how you’ll continue making the PT profession even stronger.

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