CRYSTAL LAKE – By the end of her 15-year tenure as a physical therapist for larger corporations, Denise Smith was servicing 18 patients each day, as she saw her former employers shift focus to quantity over quality.
The work demands that increased patient volume, the Crystal Lake resident said, drove her decision to create Smith Physical Therapy and Running Academy, a new business in the city with a personalized approach to aid area patients and athletes that stands in contrast to Smith’s experience in the corporate world.
She calls it concierge physical therapy, a one-on-one approach that allows her to spend quality time with patients rehabbing from injuries and teach them ways to prevent future injuries.
“When they have my undivided attention and focus, they can get better faster because they don’t have to share their treatment time with other patients,” Smith said. “I don’t have an aide working with me. It’s just me and the patient. We are cutting down the distractions for both the patient and therapist.”
Concierge care in general can cover a gamut of healthcare services that provides patients with services and amenities that may not be covered by typical insurance reimbursements. Demand for the alternative medical model has increased in recent years across the country, as patients seek more personalized care.
Popular in coastal states, concierge physical therapy slowly has started making its way into the Midwest, Smith said. Interested clients can apply for insurance reimbursements to cover the care they receive at the out-of-network Smith Physical Therapy and Running Academy, but they also may have to pay out of pocket or use money from a health savings account to cover the expense.
The goal for Smith is to save patients’ money and not waste it, she said.
Physical therapy patients at a typical insurance-based clinic can expect to pay $480, if they meet their deductible, for eight to 12 sessions over the course of four weeks. A typical concierge practice covers four sessions over four weeks, charging patients $500 total for the sessions, Smith said.
On the surface, patients would be receiving more therapy session for roughly the same cost when visiting an insurance-based clinic.
But concierge practices allow for the therapist to spend more time with individual patients, cutting down the number of visits a patient needs to make over time, she said.
Patients also will find more benefits with the one-on-one approach since care at insurance-based clinics often is dictated by what a patient’s insurance can cover and not their needs, Smith said.
“A patient has to decide what is the better option, what is more valuable to them. Their time or money?” Smith said. “Do they want undivided attention by the therapist or are they OK with the therapist treating two to four other patients at the same time?”
During her grand-opening festivities earlier in February, Smith hosted numerous open houses to educate the general public, physicians and members of area running clubs about the trendy approach to physical therapy and her new running academy.
Beyond her therapy services, Smith’s running academy is designed for athletes of all skill levels to learn proper running technique – a preventative measure meant to help athletes, regardless of what sport they play, avoid bad form and severe injuries.
Smith said she also is planning to host smaller programs for customers, such as summer camps for high school athletes and “mommy and me” running classes to help moms and their children stay active.
The personalized approach with a focus on preventative care, along with her expertise, should make the new business venture successful, she said.
Aside from her career in physical therapy, Smith last fall worked as a trainer for triathletes from the Russian national team, as they prepared for Olympic trials in Chicago. Her mentor Nicholas Romanov, who coaches the team, approached her about training opportunities in the Chicago area, and she hosted them in Crystal Lake.
“I want to empower people to take control of their bodies,” Smith said.