Tim P. Thorsen, PT, OCS, MTC

Tim P. Thorsen is the founder, president, and chief executive officer of Spine & Sport in Rhinelander, Tomahawk, and Eagle River, Wisconsin. He can be reached at tthorsen@spinesport.com.

Practice location: Rhinelander, Tomahawk, Eagle River, and Wausau, Wisconsin.

Practice specifics: Four locations, 20 employees, and 20 years in practice.

What is the most influential book/person/event that enhanced your professional career and brief description of why? The Bible is my most influential book. The most influential person in my career was Jim Gould, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. He spoke to me and my young family when we needed it most while I was in physical therapy school. He made significant contributions in life and to the profession despite passing at a young age.

Describe your essential business philosophy: My business philosophy is “Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you.” In our organization, we “empower people to maximize function,” both inside and outside of our team!

What was your best, worst, and/or toughest decisions? My best decisions ever made were to develop a relationship with my Savior, marry my wife, and go into private practice. My worst decisions were not making some decisions, or perhaps not communicating them well, to engage prior talent within our organization before it was gone; and expecting people to change for the better after multiple opportunities to do so.

How do you motivate your employees? I try to serve them within the organization and fairly meet their needs and expectations. Ultimately, we give them an environment and culture to grow in, challenge them with high individualized expectations, and serve them so that they can serve our customers!

How did you get your start in private practice? I announced to our vice president and rehabilitation director that I had to go into private practice because the organization for which we were working felt I had great ideas, but it simply was not the way they were going to do things. We leased space at a local gym, obtained insurance contracts, and began seeing patients while my wife ran the business end. Our third child (now in school at LaCrosse) was born after we had been open for four months.

How do you stay ahead of the competition? I maintain a high-level of expectation from our team and maintain a strong clinical basis in orthopedic residencies affiliated with Evidence in Motion and University of Wisconsin-Madison while focusing on each patient/client relationship.

What are your best learning experiences, including mistakes, since the inception of your practice? My best learning experiences have come through knowing myself more, mostly by listening to others, as I can never assume others think like I do or are motivated by the same things.

What are the benefits of PPS membership to your practice? The relationships developed through PPS participation and attending the annual PPS conference.

What is your life motto? Those that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they shall run and not grow weary and they shall walk and not be faint!

What worries you about the future of private practice/what you are optimistic about? I worry that health care reform will result in too much control over our care and declining reimbursement, which will force us to choose between serving all patients and serving only those who allow us to remain financially viable.

I am optimistic that private practice physical therapy is still one of the greatest values in all of health care, and we have the opportunity to be leaders in developing effective care guidelines for neuro-musculoskeletal care, avoiding imaging, injections, and medications for more holistic and cost-effective care.

What are new opportunities you plan to pursue in the next year? We have opened a new office in Wausau, Wisconsin, and implemented tracking of outcomes. We continue to search for partners to work with to demonstrate the effectiveness of private practice physical therapy in lowering total cost of care. Ultimately, we plan to enter into risk sharing arrangements with third party payers as part of a collegial group of practices establishing expectations and measuring quality of care. I am optimistic that small private practices can gain scalability and remain viable in the current environment by joining together.

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