“A Happy Place” for Aquatic Therapy
How Independence PT Gets Happier Patients and Higher Profits
"It's a happy place to be," says Jeanne Gilbert, DPT. She's talking about the Endless Pools® Dual Propulsion pool in her facility, Independence Physical Therapy.
"People are hurting when they come in. They have chronic back pain or chronic joint pain from arthritis or fibromyalgia. And they get into the water, and a smile just erupts on their face. They'll say, 'Oh, this is so wonderful. This is the first time I've been able to walk or exercise without pain.' They love it."
That's the feedback you want to hear when you're in an industry that aims to help and heal. Better still, Dr. Gilbert turned this "happy place" into a profit center. "We paid for the pool in the first year, easily," she adds. "It's been a huge income-producing piece of equipment. We always have a waiting list for people to get in the pool."
Bringing Aquatic Therapy In-house
When Dr. Gilbert founded her Connecticut physical therapy practice in 2005, aquatic therapy "hadn't been on my mind. There was an aquatic program that was going on through the hospital at a separate site. Several years later, the state closed down many of the facilities, so the local hospital lost their aquatic program."
She then turned to the local YMCA, but that had its drawbacks. "The water was very cold. Patients were ok because they were only in the water for an hour, but we were chilly in there for three hours [at a time]. I asked them to put in a therapeutic pool, but they didn't have the room. And that's when I started thinking about Endless Pools.
"We were seeing more and more cases of people with back pain and chronic pain and arthritis," so aquatic therapy just made sense. Fortunately, the space below her leased facility became available.
She considered an alternative brand of commercial pool, but it "seemed so much more complicated. Endless Pools was a better choice for us." Endless Pools provides affordable commercial pools that assemble on site, with the option for all components to be housed within the pool cabinet or located remotely. "We started building in 2017 and opened in spring 2018."
Planning for Commercial Aquatic Therapy
As mentioned, temperature control was a major requirement for Dr. Gilbert. "I have a [therapist] in the morning doing four hours and another in the afternoon doing four hours. And we do that four days a week." That would be a lot of time in chilly waters; fortunately, our Commercial Pools come standard with an energy-efficient heater.
She also opted for Endless Pools' exclusive Underwater Treadmill. "People love the treadmill," Dr. Gilbert reports. It lets patients walk, jog, or even run in place. The pool environment makes that possible for people who would find the same activity too painful on dry land. The Underwater Treadmill lets them get moving and on the road to recovery sooner.
Endless Pools also offers customizable sizing, so Dr. Gilbert was able to maximize her facility's available space. "Because we have a 15x15 pool, we can use it very efficiently and productively. And we're keeping an eye out on spacing with Covid right now. We've been able to adjust."
"We used to put two people in the pool at the top of the hour, and at the half hour, two more people would come in. And people were able to stay apart fine. When Covid came along, people were very freaked out, so we were running just two people at a time; it cut how many people we can see in half. Now, we're up to three; so at any given time, there's only two or three people in there. I think that makes patients more comfortable."
A Pool to Boost Morale
Besides delivering patient satisfaction and accelerated outcomes, the pool at Independence Physical Therapy also provides benefits for the staff. "You get a little frustrated because you're trying to help people who are in pain, and it just doesn’t happen right away," Dr. Gilbert has found. "The pool is a different place. Everybody leaves there happy, and you always feel like you've done something great.
"It's a really good emotional feedback system, not only for the patient but for the therapist. Everybody loves the pool; everybody leaves happy. That's important for people when you're doing your job, that feedback.
"Sometimes, everybody aches, and your whole day, nobody has gotten much better. The pool is where people leave every single time, and they thank you, and you always feel good."