Northwest Business Magazine

Success Stories: Orthopedic and Sports Therapy Institute

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An aging yet constantly active society is creating new opportunities for this dedicated group of therapists. Meet some of the team leaders and discover why they take a different approach to helping you get back on your feet.

Steve Merema, Josh Meyers and Donnie Early, owner-operators of Orthopedic and Sports Therapy Institute (OSTI), which has nine area locations.

Steve Merema, Josh Meyers and Donnie Early, owner-operators of Orthopedic and Sports Therapy Institute (OSTI), which has nine area locations.

After several months of nursing a back injury, you decide it’s time to figure out what’s going on and you schedule that appointment with your doctor. While seeing your doctor, you both agree you should try physical therapy.

A few days later as you arrive to your first physical therapy appointment, a friendly and warm receptionist greets you by name before you can say it as you check in.

“Wow, that was nice,” you think as you take a seat and grab a magazine to cope with the inevitable wait that goes along with most medical appointments. As you’re about to flip open the front cover, you welcome the interruption as your physical therapist greets you.

You follow your therapist into a private treatment area where you have her complete attention. After discussing your medical history, she provides you with further insight on your injury. She anticipates your questions, sharing with you what to expect from physical therapy and her plan of care for your injury. She is compassionate as you discuss with her your concerns. Her confidence puts you at ease as she discusses how she will help you return to the things you enjoy doing and assures you she will be with you each step of the way.

You leave this first appointment feeling empowered and ready to take on this injury.

It’s hard to believe that in one appointment, someone could instill such confidence.

Although health care interactions like these are not the norm, this is what patients have come to know and expect when they are receiving physical therapy care at the clinics of Orthopedic and Sports Therapy Institute (OSTI).

Physical therapy has become one of the fastest growing, specialized medical treatment fields in the nation. With so many Americans striving to remain active and functional well into their 80s and 90s, the need for high-quality care coupled with convenience has allowed OSTI to put its own stamp on delivering physical therapy care.

“We’ve been able to create a better patient experience by providing excellent, quality care delivered by dynamic physical therapists,” says owner-operator Josh Meyers, PT, DPT, OCS, at OSTI’s Edgebrook Physical Therapy location, 1643 N. Alpine Road, Rockford. “We’ve found that this works well as a business model today, and has for more than 15 years.”

Established in 1999 with the opening of its first clinic, Belvidere Physical Therapy, OSTI owns and operates nine physical therapy clinics: Belvidere; Marengo, Ill.; McHenry, Ill.; Ogle County-Byron, Ill.; Poplar Grove, Ill.; Roscoe, Ill.; two locations in Sterling, Ill.; and the Edgebrook Center in Rockford. It meets the physical therapy needs of a growing patient base throughout the northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin region.

“The greater Rockford medical landscape has always been an impressive one,” says OSTI’s director of marketing, Meghan Wilinski. “With several major medical systems, reputable private practices and top-tier specialists, patients in this area are expecting a lot more when it comes to health care. And that’s what we deliver.”

The foundation of OSTI’s philosophy of care starts with the quality of its team. The organization invests heavily in the continued education of its physical therapists.

“We pride ourselves on this,” says owner-operator Donnie Early, PT, MPT, CKTP of OSTI’s Sauk Valley Physical Therapy clinics in Sterling. “It’s not only about our team of clinicians being trained in the latest, most advanced treatment techniques, it’s about making these services accessible to the areas in which we serve.”

All nine physical therapy clinics focus on orthopedic, sports and industrial rehabilitation. However, sub-specialties are offered at each location, where clinicians have received advanced education based on desire or demand. “Within our network we have clinicians who specialize in oncology, pediatric and vestibular rehabilitation, or have obtained certifications in manual therapy. And we have an occupational medicine division that serves local industry,” says owner-operator Steve Merema, PT, DPT, CKTP of OSTI’s Ogle County Physical Therapy clinic.

“Having a well-trained staff is only part of the equation,” says Wilinski. “Creating a better patient experience hinges on how we interact with our patients from the point where they walk through our door. No one plans for physical therapy, but it’s our job, from all aspects of our business, to make that experience a positive one.”

Another way OSTI delivers a positive patient experience is by providing continuity of care. It’s likely that OSTI patients will work with the same therapist throughout their course of care, as opposed to being bounced around among therapists. “The continuity of care we offer on an individual basis is a significant benefit for our patients,” Merema says. “Patients just don’t ‘get lost’ in our system.”

“Patients are more than just a number to us,” says Meyers. “They’re who we serve. They’re why we’re in business. And when every staff member of OSTI has that mindset, we experience a lot of success.”

Adapting the business to specific community needs has also helped with that success.

“OSTI staffing at each clinic is geared to the size of the specific communities we serve, which allows each venue a tremendous range of flexibility,” says Early. “Sauk Valley extended its hours from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., tailoring its services to meet the needs of working patients who prefer not to miss work. At the Marengo and Ogle County locations, we’ve provided athletic training services to local school districts. Our Belvidere clinic has answered the needs of its industrial community through the creation of occupational medicine services.”

“We’re truly vested in our patients,” says Merema. “Their success is our success. Many of our patients drop in even after their course of treatment is completed, to say ‘Hi’ and keep us posted on how they’re doing. I think this says a lot about how we care for our patients. Keeping close community connections helps to make us a successful business.”

As for future plans, OSTI looks forward to continual growth in this ever-changing market, putting its thumbprint where it makes sense.

“We’re always evaluating the potential to grow in communities where dynamic therapists can provide a more excellent patient experience than what is currently offered,” adds Meyers.

“Being with OSTI for nearly a decade, I have watched as this organization has adapted to the changes of our marketplace,” says Wilinski. “As with any industry, the needs change, new competitors join the scene, and the demands and expectations of your customers may shift. Our focus has always been to provide patient-centered care while delivering a better patient experience. Because of this, we’re not just existing, we’re thriving.”

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