Bridging community partners and private practice.
By Saj Surve, DO
Strategic partnerships made between community stakeholders and private practices must be formed with an understanding of the benefits and risks each entity brings to the partnership along with agreement on the product and/or outcome to result from the collaboration and the process necessary to reach this goal.
Before you enter into any strategic partnership, a full Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis should be performed to best outline the potential strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats of formally partnering with a specific entity. Once a risk-benefit analysis has been established, you can best position your business for a strategic alignment of mutual benefit.
Back in 2014, there was a need in the Dallas–Fort Worth community to provide a more formalized wellness and rehabilitation program to local professional and amateur performing arts organizations with the hope of successfully reducing the incidence and prevalence of work-related musculoskeletal disorders in this population. A SWOT analysis identified an opportunity to partner with a local performing arts organization to help address its ongoing health and wellness needs. As a physician practicing at a local university, I was in a unique position to help coordinate the wellness efforts for the ballet company. I approached a local physical therapist in private practice to discuss how to further enhance wellness and health benefits for the professional ballet troupe. It became evident early on that the only way to offer a comprehensive health and wellness service to the performing arts community was to engage the services and expertise of a local orthopedic physical therapist.
The first step in developing the program was to get all of the key players to the table and establish expectations and outcomes for the program. Our initial team members included a physician, physical therapist, and athletic trainer (ATC). We decided that offering daily physical therapy and/or ATC services with a biweekly multidisciplinary clinic involving a physician and physical therapist would be the best approach to decreasing the incidence and prevalence of work-related musculoskeletal disorders in this population. By partnering with a local private physical therapy practice, we had access to a cadre of well-trained providers. These providers had an interest in helping the performing arts community as well as giving back to the community they served.
The original plan included three to four hours of daily physical therapy coverage to address the health and wellness needs of the dancers during their busiest performance season of the year. Each dancer was provided with a baseline screen from the physician and physical therapist at the start of the season to address any specific health and wellness concerns, as well as establish a baseline level of fitness for each individual. These early screens also provided an opportunity for the providers to become familiar with the most common types of injuries that these dancers face as a result of their grueling work schedules. As a direct result of this program, the last four Nutcracker seasons have successfully gone without a single injury. For perspective, these dancers perform in about 45 Nutcracker shows in 28 days. In addition, the workers’ compensation insurance carrier for the ballet company lowered their premiums by 25 percent, resulting in significant cost savings to the organization directly attributable to a decrease in claims from the program.
So, you might be asking yourself, how do I make this collaboration happen in my community? It’s easy for a physician to put together a program like this, but how can a physical therapy practice or organization reproduce this partnership? First, you should conduct a community needs assessment to determine the health and wellness needs of a group you want to target. Next, reach out to the target group and ask them about their specific needs. Explain how your practice is best positioned to meet the needs of their group. Once you have established the expectations on both sides, you can then devise a plan to best address the health and wellness needs of that organization.
Partnering with a local organization, such as a ballet company, can result in multiple benefits to both partners. First, you are directly addressing the incidence and prevalence of work-related musculoskeletal disorders by providing expert therapeutic and preventative care. The resulting decrease in work-related injuries will effect cost savings for the company, not to mention less pain and stress and more enjoyment for the dancers (and their audience!). Next, your service to an underserved population of professional athletes and dancers in the community can position your practice as an organization focused on providing health and wellness offerings to a population in need. Your team members will share a feeling of organizational pride that comes from giving back to the communities you serve.
Saj Surve, DO, is the medical director for Metroplex Performing Arts Medicine, PLLC in Bedford, Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.