A Unique Approach to Physical Therapy

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Karen Morgan Physical Therapy is a private practice specializing in a whole body systems treatment approach for a wide range of neuromuscular and musculoskeletal conditions, including complex diagnoses and chronic pain issues.

And her aim is to make treatment fun.

Karen began her 28 year career in 1990 starting with Pediatrics and moving on to Geriatrics, Neuro, Orthopedics, Post Surgical, Sports Injury, Performance Improvement, Prevention, Wellness and Fitness.

After obtaining her doctorate in 2009, she opened a Bellingham physical therapy practice.

Karen utilizes an approach to physical therapy that fuses patient values, patient circumstances, clinical expertise and best research evidence to properly diagnose and treat problems in the body.

This approach is called Evidence Based Medicine and it’s the foundation of everything Karen does.

Please enjoy the video interview, as well as more entrepreneurial and business oriented questions below.

What is your target market?
I work with kids, and I work with adults. I work with individuals who experience chronic pain, and chronic injuries.

What made you want to be an entrepreneur rather than work for someone else in an office?
Excellent question! Throughout my career I’ve been collecting ideas of how I wanted to do physical therapy my way [evidence-based and personalized] and keep those in the back of my mind. A window of opportunity opened up when another opportunity was taken away from me. There was a necessity of how could do this different – I’ve always wanted to have a practice and right now this contract over here has fallen through, now would be the time to open up my practice.

I wanted to teach people how to be independent. I think we create too much dependency in health care. I wanted to have a more individualized approach which is more difficult in a larger setting.

I wanted to be able to spend a good 50-60 minutes with a patient for a treatment and a good 75-90 minutes for an evaluation.

Which is difficult to do when you’re working under a certain paradigm that we tend to have in physical therapy.

So I had some ideas of how things could be done, if not better, but definitely differently.

I felt I would be a better service to my patients as well.

What’s the most difficult thing about being an entrepreneur?
It’s 4-fold process that is difficult, and each aspect has it challenges:
Envisioning clearly and specifically what you have to offer and how what you offer will be different from what others are offering in a like product
Envisioning the specifics of how to make this happen
Having the guts to “jump” and do it, and believing you will succeed
Getting the word out

What was the toughest thing you went through when opening the practice?
I think the toughest thing was having the faith that there would be people coming and knocking on the door.

But because I felt so strongly that this is what I was supposed to be doing, I didn’t doubt that the patients would be there.

What is your big WHY?

  1. I love what I do: I have a passion for teaching people how to attain their optimal function, and I do this addressing them as whole. When they come in to see me, I don’t see them as just a shoulder injury, or knee, etc. There are more components contributing to the problem, and I take the time to analyze and connect the dots, and teach them what I see going on with them.
  2. I keep current with research, spending time reading and studying research/journals as well as taking courses on a weekly basis. That’s a lot of time spent investing. It’s difficult to do with a full schedule, but I schedule it in. I think a lot of therapists out there struggle with this. They’ll get their mandatory hours in, but that’s not enough in my opinion. There is so much information to keep current onl
  3. I take a genuine interest in each of my patients. Everyone has a story, and I respect that, and am dedicated to helping them get back to fully living their story. I genuinely care about my patients
  4. My clinic is a “safe place” for my patients. Because most everyone is struggling with something in life, which will impact their outcomes of therapy, I acknowledge that and make it easy for them to share, and then I in turn can make some recommendations, including seeking more help. I make them feel safe that it’s okay to share, or cry, or whatever. They can be themselves.
  5. I bring a sense of humor to my practice. I like to have fun! Life is meant to be enjoyed, and yet life can also be so very hard at the same time. People coming in here often are having a rough time of it. We laugh a lot in my clinic, and I encourage it. I’m told frequently, “I really look forward to coming into the clinic for physical therapy!” How often do you hear that regarding physical therapy?
    It wasn’t enough for me to just be “active”. I knew I needed a good challenge.

What is your vision for your practice 1 year from now? 5 years from now? 10 years from now?
1 year from now – I really enjoy teaching. I do actually work with interns from Western Washington University and Whatcom with an interest in physical therapy. They will work with me and observe.

I am not interested in growing a huge practice. That was never the vision.

The vision was always that I would be able to deliver individualized, evidence based, caring and compassionate – fun treatments that really optimize people’s health.

I want to teach people to be independent, to teach them how to be healthy and not rely on us health care professionals.

What is the hardest part about owning a practice in 2018?
Insurance. Dealing with the landscape of insurance companies. The restrictions, hoops, bureaucracy etc.

I’m trying to work with as many insurance providers as possible to help as many patients as I can, but there are some insurance companies that won’t contract with me because I’m too small.

So there are quite a few people who want to see me but their insurance doesn’t pay.

It’s frustrating, I would like to help them. They know my approach and want to come to me, and some actually come and pay out of pocket.

If a customer was to choose between your business and 3 others just like it why would you suggest they at least give you a try first?
I would be pretty certain that you would have a bit more problem solving here – a bit more analysis.

I would say that in general we physical therapists are a fun group of people. We enjoy people tremendously, and all that.

But nevertheless, my paradigm of practice allows physical therapy here to be not just effective, but also fun, and maybe that’s another reason of what makes it effective too is you’re enjoying the process.

I’m going to budget the time for each session at 60 minutes versus 30 minutes.

That really allows me to get to know the patient and see things that are really contributing to the problem. It’s very difficult to analyze and come up with a solution if you don’t take the time to look at all the different components.

I can’t tell you how many times a patient tells me midway in “Oh yeah I forgot to tell you I had a stroke, or was in a motorcycle accident 10 years ago, does that play into this at all?”

That comes out at minute 32 and if I had sent them out the door at minute 28 I would miss that piece of information. So having that time allows me to gather a lot more detail.

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