"We're a sports medicine practice first," asserts Dr. Scott Wise. He opened Wise Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine in Western Pennsylvania in 1995. In recent years, he decided to "recapture the [Medicare] market," an expansion in his practice that lead him to install an Endless Pool® for aquatic therapy … and other revenue-generating programs.
Two False Starts
"In 1999, we had a full pool-complex bid out," Dr. Wise recalls. "We decided cost was prohibitive," as might be expected for any independent practice contemplating new construction.
In 2014, Dr. Wise briefly considered a HydroWorx pool for his existing location, but "it was pre-built and didn't give us any customization options." With the lack of an adjustable swim current, the HydroWorx pool "certainly didn't meet our needs to swim or do balance work."
He then turned to Endless Pools. In addition to featuring a fully adjustable swim current, the Endless Pool resolved his problems thanks to its modular construction: it allows for installation in existing rooms, saving on the cost of a new "complex," and for customization for a range of uses and locations.
Dr. Wise opted for a 15'-square Dual Propulsion Endless Pool featuring side-by-side currents for swimming and resistance. The addition of two Underwater Treadmills created new avenues for rehab and cross-training.
Opening New Doors
To accept Medicare, treatment "has to be one-on-one," Dr. Wise reports. The compact Endless Pool, with dedicated swim/treadmill stations, allows for the individual treatment of Medicare-eligible seniors with, for example, "osteoarthritis, cardiac rehab, [and] a lot of people with bad heart conditions that also have bad knees."
The Endless Pool gave Wise PT additional treatment options for their core audience, "our sports clients – high school, college, weekend warriors." Dr. Wise's experience has shown him that aquatic therapy can "get kids back faster."
"Outcomes are better, quicker" with the Endless Pool, Dr. Wise reports. With more than a decade of in-house case studies on older patients, he finds, "with Achilles reconstruction surgery, effectively we get about 22% quicker return than without the pool.
"We're getting people mobile more quickly. We can get them out of the boot and into the water." Without the pool, treatment of these seniors takes about 16 weeks, on average. With the addition of therapy in the Endless Pool, Dr. Wise and his team have shortened that time to around 12 weeks.
"And they're happier," he concludes of the Achilles/pool patients. Thanks to gentle aquatic therapy, "they don't have hip or back pain," which he reports are common "secondary conditions that arise" with Achilles damage.
Dr. Wise recalls one particular patient who had multiple ankle surgeries. Her previous land-based therapy had yielded disappointing results. Her own doctor predicted that success would be "if she got half her mobility and three-quarters of her strength back."
After fewer than 12 weeks of treatment in the Endless Pool at Wise Physical Therapy, she regained almost all of her mobility and, with "no limp, got all her calf strength back."
"'I can't believe this,'" Dr. Wise recalls her telling him. "'I'm back to work!'"
New Revenue Streams
With the Endless Pool, Dr. Wise can program classes outside the usual physical/sports therapy boxes.
"We teach swimming classes for kids who'd rather get in warm water than cold water." Wise PT also uses their Endless Pool to participate in SilverSneakers®, the Medicare-covered group fitness classes that are free to eligible seniors.
For his core sports patients, "We found we could put the current on and do some very hard balance exercises in the pool. They can jump in the pool, jump in front of the flow, jump out of the flow … Also putting a person at different angles to the flow, we get a lot of muscle contractions we couldn't get on land."
Best of all, Dr. Wise finds, his clients love being in the pool. "There are times we have to tell them, 'You have to go on land now.'"