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Julie Lombardo, PT, MA, OCS, WCS

Julie-Lombardo

Julie Lombardo, PT, MA, OCS, WCS, is a PPS member and owner of Capitol Physical Therapy in Verona, Wisconsin. She can be reached at jlombardo@capitolphysicaltherapy.com.

Practice, Location: Madison and Verona, Wisconsin.

Practice Specifics: We specialize in orthopedics and sports physical therapy, pelvic physical therapy, aquatic therapy, injured workers, and seniors. We have 12 employees at our two locations in Madison and Verona, Wisconsin.

Years in Practice: I’ve been in practice as a physical therapist for 17 years and have been a private practice owner for 10 years.

What is the most influential book/person/event that enhanced your professional career and brief description of why? I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work for two incredible people before opening our practice. Chuck Emerick, my first professional boss, had a way of making our team work hard and laugh often. He taught me to, “Wake up each morning and decide to make it a great day!” For years, I leaned on him for many business decisions.

Laurie Drewsen, my second professional boss, gave me wings. She pushed me to learn the business side of therapy. I’ll be forever grateful to both of them and will always consider them true friends.

Describe the flow of your average day. Do you treat patients and how many hours a day/week? When do you perform management tasks, answer emails, market? I am involved mostly in administrative duties now. For many years, I juggled between patient care, billing, management, emails, marketing, program development, and everything else involved in owning a practice. Like all practice owners, I spent countless hours working on my laptop on the weekends and from my bed at night, and I was getting burned out. After my second child was born, I made the decision to remain more administrative, so I could focus on growing the practice and have a better life balance. Our practice has doubled in size since then.

Describe your essential business philosophy: Always know where you are financially. Determine your break-even with all major changes and manage your practice accordingly.

What were some of your best/worst decisions? The best decision that I ever made was to do the billing myself in the early days. I now have a strong knowledge of how and when we get paid, and I was able to train others. Years later, when we decided to outsource our billing, I was able to clearly see if they were doing a good job with our collections.

How do you motivate your employees? I try to provide an environment that is positive and best highlights their strengths. I often give verbal recognition, and I like to have our team members make suggestions and be a part of our decision making.

Julie-Lombardo-and-family-

How did you get your start in private practice? When I approached my husband about opening a private practice, he suggested I read, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki. After reading the book, we talked about it again, and he pragmatically said, “What’s the worst thing that could happen? You could fail and be embarrassed for a while, and then you’d go back to the same or similar job you have now, right?” It was the push I needed to go for it.

How do you stay ahead of the competition? I work hard at watching the trends and making changes within the company that fit with the health care environment at the time. An example of this was joining FOTO, a national outcomes database, in 2012 and forming a statewide alliance of private practices in 2013 to work on best practices, outcomes, contracting, and cost-saving strategies.

What have been your best learning experiences (mistakes) since the inception of your practice? Early on, I helped a company that needed a part-time physical therapist until they hired their own. They ended up hiring our physical therapist. I very quickly learned to never do things with a handshake. Always put it in writing. It is business, not personal.

What are the benefits of PPS membership to your practice? Through PPS, I have met my most trusted colleagues, who have been a continual source of support and encouragement. I’ll never forget the high-fives and warm welcomes I received at the 2004 PPS Conference when I told people I was 6 weeks into owning a practice. Through PPS, I have stayed up to date on changes pertinent to private practice, and becoming a member has been one of the best business decisions I have made.

What is your life motto? Life is short. Make the most of it.

What worries you about the future of private practice/what are you optimistic about? Like many private practice owners, I worry that with accountable care organizations, medical homes, and hospital mergers and acquisitions, there will be more and more internal referring. At the same time, I am optimistic about the opportunities we have with self-insured companies and that patients are becoming better health care consumers. If your practice provides efficient and effective care, it is hard for others to compete with private practice pricing.

What are some new opportunities you plan to pursue in the next year? This year we are working hard on continuing to advance the skill of our physical therapists and adding new services, like trigger point dry needling and pelvic treatments for males. Within the next year or two, I would like to pursue Evidence In Motion’s executive program in private practice management and complete my transitional doctor of physical therapy.