Health Care and Small Business & Startups

Surviving the changes in health care insurance

A local myofascial physical therapist has a strategy to keep her business viable.

February 6, 2015
| By Pete Daly |
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Essence Physical Therapy
Rachel Davies does not accept insurance payments for her services, but she does supply clients with paperwork they can submit to their insurance companies for reimbursement. Courtesy Essence Physical Therapy

Essence Physical Therapy just turned one year old, an encouraging milestone in a field dealing with the stressful cost of U.S. health care and the insurance industry that has been tied to it for generations.

Rachel Davies opened Essence Physical Therapy, her first business, at 1140 Monroe Ave. NW. Previously employed as a physical therapist at a hospital and out-patient clinic in Grand Rapids for the past 13 years, Davies now specializes in myofascial release therapy. She is the only fourth-level myofascial release practitioner in Grand Rapids.

Fascia is the thin network of fibrous tissue beneath the surface of the skin that envelopes the body, enclosing muscles and separating layers of muscles. Myofascial release involves highly trained, hands-on sustained pressure on the skin to locate and release pressure built up in the fascia due to injury, overuse, inflammation or surgery.

Davies has been trained in the John F. Barnes approach to myofascial release. She is the sole proprietor at Essence Physical Therapy, which is now a full-time, cash-based or private-pay practice. However, she does provide the necessary paperwork for patients who wish to submit their bills to their insurance company.

“My biggest guidance and resource in starting my business has been Dr. Jarod Carter’s e-book, “My Cash-Based PT Practice,” said Davies.

Carter is a physical therapist with a Ph.D. who lives in Austin, Texas. He has written about the trend for PTs to start private-pay practices. His private-pay practice launched in 2010. On his website, Carter writes, “The fact is that government spending on health care must, and will, be cut drastically in the future,” whether or not the new legislation is repealed or changed.

“There is simply no way that reimbursement levels and benefits for our growing and aging population can continue the way they are now, and the system not go completely bankrupt,” writes Carter.

“With the coming changes, it is likely that reimbursement for tertiary services like PT will take some of the biggest hits,” according to Carter. He predicts physical therapists will see a decrease in reimbursements in the future, and patients will have less benefits and avenues for getting treatment.

“I started a private-pay PT practice so that I can continue to do what I love, help people the way I feel is most beneficial to them, and be compensated for my services without having to cater to insurance companies in order to be profitable and survive,” said Davies.

“I am able to spend one hour minimum with each patient, providing quality, hands-on treatment followed by instruction in a home exercise program. Insurance-based PT clinics are influenced in the types of treatment their patients receive and the amount of time the physical therapists are able to spend with their patients.

“My overhead is low and therefore I am able to charge less for higher quality, more efficient care, which I feel is a win/win situation for both parties,” said Davies.

“I teach everyone how to treat themselves” at home, said Davies. That service is part of her regular treatment.

Davies has a powerful asset in her first foray into running a small business. Her husband, Rob Davies, is a partner at Warner Norcross and Judd and has experience in advising small business owners.

“My husband was a big help in setting up the business,” said Davies.

She also hired an accountant, who has been very helpful.

“I have many friends that have helped me; many of them are also sole proprietors with small businesses. They have assisted me in marketing, bookkeeping and other general questions I’ve had,” said Davies.

She admits the biggest personal challenge has been the marketing; she is having a new website developed and has learned how to use Facebook as an effective marketing tool. One of her biggest sources of marketing advice are the “many friends” she has in business, but she also has learned what she can do on her own initiative to market the business.

For example, Davies recently spoke to second-year medical students at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids as a member of a panel discussion on alternative health care. She also was part of the Whole U GR Health Expo at St. Cecilia Music Center in January, and she values the networking possibilities through her membership in the Monroe North Business Association.

Davies said her business is growing. Some of her patients are referred by physicians, and others have heard about her by word-of-mouth.

She said her goal is to have her therapy become an integrated part of every patient’s medical care, involving other medical experts and therapies.

“I’m always in contact with (the patient’s) physician,” she said.

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