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John E. Bonaroti, PT

John Bonaroti

John E. Bonaroti, PT, is the owner of East Suburban Sports Medicine Center in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. He can be reached at john@essmc.com.

Practice, Location: East Suburban Sports Medicine Center, Murrysville, Pennsylvania

Size of practice (# of locations, employees): 6 clinics; 60 employees

Years in practice: 34

Most influential book: The Ultimate Health Revolution. I have really focused on my own personal fitness for the past 10 years, and I believe that we should be an example for our patients as they pursue a healthy lifestyle.

Favorite vacation spot: Breckenridge, Colorado. We have enjoyed many wonderful family trips to the mountain where the powder is plentiful. The blue sky there is simply incredible and Main Street provides awesome eateries and shopping.

Favorite movie: Forrest Gump. I wish that everyone in the world was as honest and forthright as him. Our world would be a better place for sure!

How do you like to spend your free time? I am committed to regular exercise, which keeps my life in balance. Distance running and cycling are my passions. In the summer months you can find me on the golf course once or twice a week and during the winter we hit the snow. Giving back to the community is very important to me and I serve on a volunteer board for a local nonprofit.

What do you like most about your job? My best days are when I am treating patients (not doing admin) and realizing the sense of accomplishment when patients get better. It gives me energy seeing daily progress with people and the impact that it has on their lives. Honestly, this is why I became a physical therapist. I know that I have to run the business, but my preference is being in the trenches with the patients.

What do you like least about your job? Managing human resources is the bane of my existence. The challenges posed by my employees and especially Millennials are what make my days tough. I see a decline in work ethic, and there are times when we just can’t figure out what makes people tick.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned? Patients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. The most important thing that we can do on the first visit is to establish a relationship with the patient and put them at ease with the process. This is powerful stuff.

Describe your essential business philosophy: My personal life and business life mirror each other. There is a scripture passage that says “Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly.” Being fair, honest, and gracious with people is the essence of how I manage my business.

Describe your management style: I do my best to empower people in my organization. I bring a lot of enthusiasm and energy to the mix to cultivate involvement and growth.

What is the best way you keep a competitive edge? Building relationships is the cornerstone of our success. We have invested considerable resources of time and money to develop and maintain relationships with physicians and patients. We use Hability for Patient Relationship Management (PRM) and it is paying dividends.

How do you measure your success? Our clinics are in relatively small communities so we have a hometown feel to our practice. We measure our success by the name recognition that we have in the community and the number of returning patients and referrals that come from within our patient base.

Goal yet to be achieved: I struggle with allocating adequate admin time throughout my workweek, most likely because I would rather be treating patients than doing admin. I realize that I have to get better with this and it is my goal to schedule this accordingly.

Best decision: The best decision that I have made in the past 10 years is embracing BMS [BMS Practice Solutions] for EMR (electronic medical records) and electronic billing. With all the demands placed on clinicians for documentation, our systems have kept us at the forefront of technology to navigate all the recent changes with no interruption in service and with minimal extra demand on staff.

Worst decision: My worst decisions are with underperforming staff. I typically give people the benefit of the doubt almost to a fault and try to nurture them to get on track. Sometime when we give people too many chances to get on track, it impacts the morale of the remaining staff. Waiting too long to cut someone loose can be a detriment.

Toughest decision: No doubt, the most difficult decisions are with employee terminations. Thankfully we have had very few!

How do you motivate your employees? I think the most important way to motivate staff is to treat them with respect and to be consistently fair. We do everything that we can to make our work environment fun. All staff are incentivized. Physical therapists have a weekly performance incentive that is paid out monthly. Support staff are paid an incentive based on our percentage of arrival stat. We have very little staff turnover in key positions and I attribute this to our work environment.

If you could start over, what would you do differently? If I could start over, I would definitely hire and train a full-time marketing specialist. We have done well over the years, but it has taken a lot of my energy that could have been directed elsewhere. I would also require more regular outreach participation from clinical staff as part of a marketing plan.

Describe your competitive advantage: In our communities, name awareness is our competitive edge. Being around for 34-plus years, we are now taking care of entire extended families who have had wonderful experiences with our practice. We are known for supporting every request for donations and support of school and other nonprofit groups, and this goes a long way towards establishing a community presence.

Describe your marketing strategy and highlight your most successful action: Our marketing strategy is based on relationship with patients, families, and referral sources. My most successful action in the past five years has been consistently referring patients to orthopedic surgeons who now realize that we are an important referral source for them just as they are for us.

What unique programs do you offer that set you apart from the competition? We invested in two AlterG anti-gravity treadmills five years ago and it has really set us apart from other practices. We have also developed a vestibular/balance program and a concussion management program.

What are the benefits of PPS membership to your practice? PPS has been a wonderful experience for me. Annual Conference gives me the opportunity to recharge the batteries where idea sharing is abundant. The vendor exhibit hall has been an amazing resource where one can get facetime with countless vendors who are presenting the most cutting edge technology. I was introduced to PT1 insurance there and it has saved me thousands of dollars. The Monthly Marketing Toolkit is a well-crafted piece that provides dozens of marketing ideas which we use primarily with our online presence.

What worries you about the future of private practice? My biggest fear is large corporations and hospital-owned physical therapy pushing out private practice.

What are you optimistic about? Insurers are emphasizing the benefits of physical therapy (PT) interventions before they will authorize certain diagnostic testing and surgery, which benefits private practice. Additionally, we continue to play a significant role in postsurgical management, and patients recognize the significance of what we do and how we impact the return to full function.

What are your goals for the next year? My number one goal for this year is to fully integrate our new physical therapist assistants (PTAs) into the practice to improve our overall productivity. Until the past six months we had not employed PTAs and I have come to see how effective they are and how they benefit the practice. Additionally I realize that I must get better with allocating admin time that is dedicated to marketing and growth.

Where do you see the best opportunities for your practice in the future? We continue to preach World Class Customer Service to our staff. The general public is becoming more demanding of excellent service and by providing it we set ourselves apart. We also sell value, and patients realize that what we give them for what they pay and the outcome that they achieve is fairly priced.

What do private practitioners need to do to thrive in today’s health care environment? Without question we have to stay positive, look for opportunities, build/maintain relationships, and preach efficacy. The value proposition is at the forefront and we all have to be ready to talk the talk and walk the walk.