Can We Jump the Fence?

Every once in awhile you hear a talk that makes you want to stand up and yell, “YES! You get it!”

That’s how I felt while listening to Michael Riley Jr., PT, DPT speak at Graham Sessions 2016 in January. Mike is the VP of Business Development at Professional Therapy Services in Illinois. He gave one of the “What I Believe” talks, highlighting an area that he believes physical therapists can impact: population health.

Mike told the story of his realization that PTs are uniquely qualified to engage with and educate people in the workplace, assisting with behavioral change prior to serious illness or injury. His passion and enthusiasm were infectious, and left people talking for days afterwards.

I join Mike in his enthusiasm for engaging with patients as active partners in their health. If we can engage patients early and often, we have a better chance of building a lifelong relationship with them, and helping them reach their health goals.

Thanks for sharing your speech with us, Mike!

March 2015

I was having an innocuous conversation with the insurance broker for my company, Professional Therapy Services (PTS). His name is Ashley, and he is a wildly eccentric visionary. After a lengthy rant about unnecessary surgeries, imaging, drug prescriptions, medical errors, and the fact that our country is about as unhealthy as it has ever been; he asked if I thought physical therapy could have a role in helping to change the culture of one of the companies he works with.

Of course, we should be able to help. But how?

Ashley mentioned an onsite health clinic and his vision to change it into a health “system” for people working at this company. So, we went off to Chicago for the 13th Annual Congress on Onsite Employee Health Clinics. We listened to wellness and prevention experts talk about the latest and greatest systems, and all the money they saved their companies. Not once did anyone mention utilizing PT.

Ashley looked at me and said,

“These people are full of it, their programs do not translate to savings for anyone.” He added, “If you guys (PTs) can really do this, you’re going to have more opportunities than you could ever imagine.”

Back to Present Day

On January 11th, in Alabama, we signed a contract to provide a PT onsite at a manufacturing plant with two thousand workers. PTS collaborated with the clinic operators, health risk management consultants, doctors, counselors, and nursing staff. We brought Jennifer Gamboa’s Sustainable Health Index to the table. Long story short, we sat in a room for twelve hours and amazingly enough, PTs drove the discussion, creating new clinical pathways during these sessions.


I have been practicing outpatient PT for 16 years, fighting the same battles we have all faced. Decreased payment and utilization, increased government regulation, co-pays, documentation requirements and new payment models that have been very difficult for staff PTs to accept.

Why do I wait for Frank to tweak his back shoveling snow, go to the ER, get an X-Ray, drugs, and a follow-up with a PCP who doesn’t offer a solution, and sends him for an MRI-- just so Frank can make sure to understand he has a bulging disc?

You see, the problem is not his back. The problem is he wasn’t ready to shovel the snow in the first place!!

Being forty pounds overweight, diabetic, and hypertensive, Frank is no shape to shovel anything! Frank’s general lack of knowledge on how to manage the chronic diseases is also a problem (and an opportunity for us). Quite frankly, Frank is lucky his back is all that he injured, and that he didn’t have a massive heart attack.

Looking to the Future

We can truly improve the human experience if we have access to people earlier in their lives and more frequent touches, both physically and virtually. This starts with quality content at work and home being delivered seamlessly throughout the individual journey to health. We can’t continue to be episodic care providers!

We need to “get on the other side of the fence.”

I have only just begun to realize how valuable we may be in helping drive down the cost of healthcare in this country. If I’ve just begun to realize how valuable our services are, what do the therapists I work with daily think about the value we provide as a profession?

When I talk to therapists, most don’t know the power of their value. They see value in terms of units produced and patients seen. Realizing where our highest point of contribution may be as a profession creates an opportunity for MAJOR CHANGE.

Currently, PTs are only touching a fraction of the population who could benefit from our services. Prevalence of chronic disease is linked to age. 6% of eighteen to forty-four year olds reported two or more chronic conditions. That rate multiplied over 5 times to 32% of forty-five to sixty-four year olds (Source). We have a responsibility to bring these numbers down.

How do we increase self-awareness and unleash real change in our profession?

How do we get to 20/20 vision and clearly see the opportunity to shape health?

We need to “jump the fence."

Given the current health climate we are not seizing the opportunity to work as the entry point to better health. People change for two reasons, desperation or inspiration… I have been inspired to change the way I think about the future of this profession and the value we possess.

Which side of the fence will you be on?

Thanks again to Mike Riley for sharing this talk with us! We hope you’re feeling inspired to authentically connect with your patients! If you would like more information about how we can help you do that, click below!

Check Out StriveHub Reach

Ann Wendel

Physical Therapist, Writer, Speaker, Consultant, Kettlebell Lover. Director of Brand Marketing for @strive_labs and @APTAtweets Media Spokesperson.