By Tom DiAngelis, PT, DPT
The key ingredient to business success—including private practice—is developing relationships. From the time we each began thinking about opening a private practice, we were advised to develop relationships with not only referral sources, but also our banker, accountant, and attorney. I would guess that all of us in private practice have built these connections over the years.
However, not all of us in private practice have developed relationships with those who make decisions that have the potential to drastically change our practices and our lives. Of course, I am referring to our elected officials at both the state and federal levels. We know how critical those previously mentioned relationships are to our existence, but fail to see the importance of venturing outside that circle of referral sources and business associates. Developing relationships with our elected officials should not be difficult for any of us in private practice; it is no different than what we do on a daily basis. We spend our days developing relationships—sharing our expertise and talking about our profession—yet when it comes to our elected officials, many find it difficult to do.
The importance of developing these relationships became evident to me once again in March, when I was on Capitol Hill with our lobbyist, Jerome Connolly, and two other PPS members advocating for the Sustainable Growth Rate fix, the therapy cap, locum tenens, and yes, physician self-referral. We were joined by longtime PPS member Clem Eischen and a member of our Administrators Council, Diana Godwin, both from Oregon, as well as Mandy Frohlich from APTA. Clem was in private practice for many years and has a son in private practice now. He ran in the 1948 Olympics and was involved in the effort to have physical therapists recognized as providers in the Medicare program years ago. Diana is an attorney and represents more than 300 private practices in Oregon and Washington. Clem and Diana joined us because Senator Ron Wyden (OR) had recently taken over as Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and both of them had developed relationships with the senator over decades. As many of you know, the Senate Finance Committee is a powerful committee that has jurisdiction over practically all of our issues, and in the time since the senator assumed this role, everyone has been trying to meet and speak with him.
We met with one of Senator Wyden’s staff to review our issues. However, the key moment of this meeting was when the staff person let the senator know who the two guests from Oregon were—he immediately came into the office to shake hands and say hello. This would not have happened if Clem and Diana were not present and they had not developed long-standing relationships with him. So now the senator knows very clearly that physical therapists were in his office, he met the lobbyists for both APTA and PPS, and he knows that two constituents felt it important enough to fly across the country for this meeting. What I knew the minute he walked through the door to say hello was that he understood the importance of relationships. Do you?