This year’s Ascend business summit heralded a lot of exciting discussions around innovation and the future of rehab therapy. And because of this, we at WebPT feel it’s important to recognize outstanding clinics that embody the spirit of evolving the profession—no matter what obstacles stand before them. For that reason, we were especially excited to name our first-ever Innovator of the Year award recipient, Summit Physical Therapy, Inc. in Homer, Alaska. I had the pleasure of speaking with Summit’s co-founder, Jay C. Cherok, PT, DPT, Cert. MSKUS, about Summit’s success. Check out our interview below:
1. Tell me a bit about your clinic. What is your practice culture like? What makes your business stand out from the competition?
From the moment you walk into Summit PT, there is a palpable feeling of caring and professionalism that is rooted in quality, evidence-based practice with a patient-centered mindset. We have created processes and procedures within our practice that encourage employee growth and development, retention, and an environment that doesn’t feel like work. Our staff collaborates with one another on and off the clock with monthly expeditions, outings, and adventures, which fosters trust in one another and exposes everyone’s skillset.
Summit Physical Therapy also provides a safe harbor for patient and staff concerns to be heard and, most importantly, addressed. We listen to the needs and concerns of our community and create actionable plans to attend to those needs. Although vast and beautiful, Alaska has challenged us to break away from typical business models and reinvent how our services reach the patients. We fly therapists across the Kachemak Bay on a weekly basis to serve our neighboring community of Seldovia, which went without that service for years. We are constantly assessing and predicting the trends of our industry to be at the forefront of providing physical therapy care. We recently collaborated with Neuro Rehab VR, which has allowed us to utilize machine learning and tailor the patient experience toward individual patient goals in an immersive virtual world.
In 2020, Summit PT will be implementing telehealth into our business model to further allow us to reach underserved and otherwise unreachable patient demographics. We foresee this route of providing care as the next big leap for the healthcare industry, and Summit PT will expand its reach with this route of delivery.
2. Tell me about your practice’s mission and core values. What do they mean to you and your staff, and how do you ensure everyone upholds them?
Our company’s mission is to use skilled education and evidence-based treatment to provide superior preventive and rehabilitative care—all while maintaining genuine compassion and respect for each patient’s individual goals. Every patient has a story to tell us and requires our staff to be attentive to his or her needs. The patients who walk through our doors are treated with the same level of respect our staff would want for their mothers, fathers, and family members. We all have our struggles in life, and at Summit PT, you will never go through your struggle feeling alone.
We utilize a buddy system within our staff infrastructure, meaning each staff member has the opportunity to check in with his or her buddy as a touchpoint for praising successes and overcoming challenges within our company workflow.
3. If there is one thing that the success of your business has hinged on, what would you say it is?
This is my favorite question to answer, because it allows me to complete an internal review of our successes—and narrow down all the complexities that got us there—to one key focal point. We can then draw attention back to this point any time we find ourselves drifting away.
I would say that communication has been the fulcrum to keeping our company balanced and successful. We encourage open and consistent dialogue among staff, owners, referral sources, and patients through many different routes. This has allowed us to be responsive to the requests and needs of our community. Everyone knows that their voices are heard when they speak to us. By integrating our services into the local schools, sporting groups, and healthcare facilities, we have provided an open forum for us to learn how we can further support the public needs.
4. What sort of experience do you create within your clinic? Take us through a typical “day in the life.”
We strive to have Summit Physical Therapy, Inc. feel like your home away from home. We are a family who supports each other’s needs and builds one another up. We are a community of patients and staff who can laugh together and cry together. From the moment you walk through the doors, you are met with friendly office staff telling stories with patients and exchanging notes on the best farming tips; you walk into the gym and see patients and therapists smiling and laughing as they master their individualized treatment programs; and you see therapists and business owners who can lean on each other and know they are heard and supported.
5. What’s in store for the future of your practice? Where do you see it in 10 years?
We will be implementing telehealth in 2020 with a hybrid model of digital and brick-and-mortar access to Alaska residents. Our staff will continue to expand with highly skilled and motivated team members who want to be part of the Summit vision. We will include student PTs who will develop into new professionals and share our commitment to service.
In ten years, I would like to see Summit PT recognized as a household name in the state of Alaska with five locations across the state. This will allow us the opportunity to bring our company vision and patient experience to those who need it most.
6. Being based in Alaska, how has the small population and harsh climate impacted you and your patient population?
Most people may look at the smaller population and climate of Alaska as hurdles to overcome, but we have found that they help us to connect more with our ideal patients. The town does a great job at clearing the roads when conditions are harsh, but we still get occasional cancellations when weather is severe—especially for patients who live far away. But overall, our patients make their best effort to attend appointments, no matter the weather or conditions. We have taken strides to reach those patients who have difficulty accessing physical therapy services with our weekly flights to Seldovia across Kachemak Bay, and we’ll soon be utilizing telehealth. In regard to PT services, our unique environment—and the conditions patients have to deal with on a daily basis—provide an opportunity for our clinicians to create interventions that replicate scenarios in the clinic setting and ensure patients are safe and prepared to handle whatever Alaska may have in store for them.