While some practice owners are finding running an outpatient therapy practice in rural communities a nigh impossible feat, one practice has found a way to succeed and do so with the region’s top talent and strong company culture—and they just so happen to be the 2023 Ascend Clinic of the Year award winners.
In this episode of The Practice Experience Podcast, WebPT Co-Founder and Chief Clinical Officer Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC, and Craig Phifer, PT, MHA, owner and CEO of Rehabilitation and Performance Institute, discuss the realities of owning and operating a clinic in rural communities while still providing excellent care with excellent staff.
To set every clinic up for success—regardless of location—the two tackle subjects like:
- developing clinicians from day one,
- engaging with your community to foster growth, and
- creating a future talent pipeline within your community.
On Work-Life Balance and Starting Rehabilitation and Performance Institute
Craig: I looked around at the people I was working with and said, “I think our profession has a problem with making this awesome for us [the clinicians]. We work really hard in school, we all care a great deal about our patients, but we need to find a way to make physical therapy work for us. Because then I’m very confident we can make it work for our patients.
On How Purpose Guides Practice
Craig: There's a tremendous purpose in what we do, and we need to allow our team members to feel it. The best way to do that is to allow the therapist and the patient to stick together throughout the course of care. And when you really get to experience that full relationship of peaks, valleys, and setbacks and then a triumphant return to whatever they were doing and even beyond, there's a tremendous amount of purpose in feeling the help you're providing somebody else.
On a Recipe for Success in a Rural Setting
Craig: What it really came down to [for us], is that we had people who were from the area who deeply cared about their small community—that has always been our best marketing strategy. I know it sounds cliché, but we have to have people who genuinely care about the people they're helping, and then them going about living their daily lives becomes marketing in a way.
On Attracting Top Talent with the Flywheel
Craig: As we're treating high school or college athletes who are back home for the summer or whatever their case may be, they start to get a sense of, “Oh, this might be something I'm going to consider a career.” And [with attracting and retaining talent] now we have small towns with four or five people from that one small community who are all going to physical therapy school, and they would love to come back and work with us because they had such an awesome experience as patients, or just observing.
On Marketing Therapy Practices in Rural Communities
Craig: We're in an area dominated by orthopedic surgeon-owned and hospital-owned physical therapy. So we've always said from the very beginning that if we were going to compete, it was through patients and word-of-mouth. We've been able to develop some relationships with physicians, but it's usually because their patients have said, “I went here and it was incredible; you should send other people there.” So [marketing] is almost entirely patient-based.
On Advocating for Rehab’s Value in a Rural Community
Craig: [When looking at operating costs and practicing in a rural area] you must set what your time is worth in your locations, and decide, “I'm not going to take these contracts specifically because they don't value my time as much as they should.” So, [we] don't sign bad contracts that don't work for us in that environment. We're out of network with some payers—some pretty major players in the insurance industry—and that's the decision of, “They don't pay us well enough to support our ability to give our full time and attention to that patient.” So we're going to choose to be out of network, and we have a lot of people who choose to see us like that, or on a cash basis.
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