"Rich and I have similar values and share the same vision. We wanted to create a place that would change people's lives," Buehler shared.
What began in 2004 as a small clinic staffed solely by the partners has grown to employ 60 people in four locations throughout Orange County, Calif. Coury & Buehler Physical Therapy (CBPT) specializes in orthopedics, spine care and sports medicine for young athletes to older adults. They stress high-end care with an environment devoted to healing - treating the whole patient, not just localized injuries.
Based on a list of criteria including revenue growth, recruiting and staff development, customer service, and practice growth, CBPT has impressively earned the distinction as ADVANCE's 2013 Practice of the Year.
"In carefully reviewing each of the applications this year, it was apparent to me that Coury & Buehler Physical Therapy possesses all of the characteristics of a top-notch organization with great leaders and quality care," said Michael Nula, MS, DPT, judging panel member, former contest winner, and owner of Elite Physical Therapy Inc., with seven locations in the Providence, R.I., area
The past few years have done their best to drain the resources and financial viability of rehab centers across the country. Combine the economy with declining reimbursement rates and you have a recipe for disaster.
Not the case for CBPT, an organization that boldly faced the challenging economic times head on and came out on top. Last year alone, the team witnessed 15% and 30% increases in revenue and volume, respectively. "This is amazing growth considering we are 100% fee for service," Coury qualified.
"Instead of focusing on declining reimbursement rates by making budget cuts, we focused on continuing to provide quality care," he added. "We maintained our high level of quality and put more emphasis on continuing education and mentoring to improve our quality of care. We participate in FOTO, a nationwide outcome database. Over the past year, we have had a 99% patient satisfaction rate and rank in the top 10% in the nation in improvement of functional scores. I believe our referral sources and the public recognize that we have not compromised our values, and perhaps more importantly, that we get results."
According to Buehler, the partners agreed from the beginning to fix their focus only on elements they can control, such as providing great care and developing the team. "We had to become wiser with how we distributed our income; however, we never cut back on the areas that we felt would allow us to provide the best care for our patients: our staff pay/benefits, continuing education, and enhancing our facilities," he explained.
Committed therapists and a patient-first philosophy keep clients coming to Coury & Buehler Physical Therapy, with four locations in Southern California. The private practice, launched by Brandon Buehler and Rich Coury (above), has earned ADVANCE's Practice of the Year Award for 2013.
The team turned their focus to cost-effective internal marketing efforts and saw referrals from existing clients skyrocket. "We also created affordable private-pay, cash-based plans for our patients to help the many patients whose insurance were limiting their care," shared Buehler. "This resulted in more business with our patients continuing or returning for care, despite what their insurance dictated."
The strong values on which the foundation of the business rest date back to high school and college injuries for both owners. Each landed in the capable hands of a physical therapist who impressed upon them the rewarding work of rehab and its importance in the community. And they have never looked back.
"We have a mentality that we will never settle and never claim we have 'arrived,'" Buehler explained. "Once we achieve a goal, we must set the bar higher. We won't give up on our aspirations because there is always room for improvement and avenues to elevate our care and service."
A Culture of Caring and Service
In keeping with the clinic's team motto of "a culture of caring and service, for our patients and each other," Coury and Buehler believe that the key to developing and retaining quality staff members begins with treating each individual as more than an employee.
"We treat our employees as members of our family," Coury said. "If you ask any team member the best part of working at CBPT, I bet dollars to dimes they will say 'my coworkers' because they all care for each other so much."
CBPT provides a satisfying and rewarding workplace for its dedicated employees. The owners stress the importance of offering employees an opportunity to grow in the practice but also to lead. Case in point is Angelo Urquico, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, who joined CBPT as a physical therapist in 2007 and is now director of operations and partner.
"I am a perfect example of how someone can advance their career with CBPT," Urquico shared. "Because of how CBPT is organized and continuously expanding, there is a solid path for career advancement. I grew from a staff physical therapist to director and partner in a matter of five years."
"We think it's important to create opportunities for PTs to become owners," Coury said. "We have two partners in one of our new clinics and our ambition is to bring on additional partners as we continue to grow. We support our PTs in whatever their goals are so they can have a career and not just a 'job' with our company."
CBPT places an emphasis on continuing education and the advancement of the PTs' manual and communication skills, according to Urquico. "This allows us to provide the best care possible to our patients," he explained. "In addition, we have regular leadership development training for our physical therapists and managers to help them grow in their leadership skills. We hold weekly PT meetings to review research articles, discuss case studies and learn new treatment techniques to improve our skills."
The clinic also acknowledges the importance of guidance and input from senior-level PTs for those who are just getting started in the field. "By offering a year-long mentoring program for new graduates, newer PTs may learn from our senior PTs on a one-on-one basis," said Urquico.
Education and development opportunities are part of the fabric of the clinic. Each year, the PTs receive $1,200 in continuing education funding, as well as one in-house continuing education course.
In addition to clinical education and weekly meetings to discuss patient care and techniques, the PTs receive basic business and communication training. "This program helps our PTs grow professionally, which will in turn enhance their clinical success," Buehler explained.
Along with incentives such as performance-based bonuses, the clinic hosts regular events to celebrate the success of its team and to acknowledge holidays. When an employee reaches his 5-year anniversary with the company, the owners send him on a 2-3-day getaway
The Customer Always Comes First
With a self-professed "near-fanatical" attention to patient satisfaction, the owners insist that customer service is one of CBPT's most important core values. "Our goal is to be known for providing the highest level of physical therapy care, but also for providing the most compassionate service possible," Buehler shared.
According to Coury, CBPT is focused on communication, collaboration and individualized one-on-one care. "We constantly elicit patient feedback and are receptive to their comments and suggestions," he said. "We survey our patients following their first week of treatment to gather feedback and ensure they are satisfied."
The clinic has expanded into new locations to provide convenience to patients in the region. Each location is specifically chosen in an accessible area near major highways. In addition to being housed in professional buildings with ample parking, the clinics offer early, late and weekend hours to allow all patients to receive care, despite their schedules.
Superior service begins with friendly and knowledgeable patient service representatives available to schedule patients and help with any questions. Patients receive a welcome e-mail including new patient paperwork and directions for their convenience. A phone call is also placed to new patients during the first couple of weeks to provide a personal welcome, help with any questions, and gather feedback.
For patients who may not be comfortable verbally expressing feedback, a short form can be placed in feedback boxes in the clinics or filled out on the company website.
Following the second week of treatment, patients are rewarded with a company T-shirt. Patients are provided with a fresh towel during treatment and have access to a café that offers filtered water, coffee and tea.
"We obtain as much feedback from our patients as possible in order to continue to improve our care and service," Buehler said. "Overall, we provide the fun, welcoming atmosphere of Disneyland along with the professional customer service of Nordstrom."
The team has transferred the culture to the personal side as well, according to Buehler. "Our PTs often visit an ailing patient in the hospital or attend a high school sporting event to support a patient returning to the field," he explained.
The Future is Bright
"Especially in this changing healthcare and economic climate, our profession must stand out, shine and be a stable force for patients," Nula said regarding the team's contest entry. "It is clear that CBPT is not only accomplishing great things as a group, but also helping to propel our profession forward to improve the health and lives of as many people as possible."
Buehler and Coury believe it's their responsibility to meet the challenges of the profession. "The future success of physical therapy is through private practice," Buehler said. "As we grow and expand, we hope to provide an example of how to survive and succeed in this industry and to provide a model of exceptional care and service for our profession."
The owners are motivated to grow and be successful in order to represent the profession in a positive light. They will not rest until they have established in the minds of physicians and the community, exactly what physical therapy is (and what it is not). To that end, the organization stays visible by attending health and employee fairs, visiting senior centers, and speaking at local events to represent physical therapy to the community. To recruit people into the field, CBPT offers internship programs for PT technicians and brings in interns from local PT schools.
"Our success is definitely due to the hard work and culture that Rich and Brandon created from the beginning. And you can see it trickle down to the entire company," Urquico said.
Rebecca Mayer Knutsen is on staff at ADVANCE. Contact: email@example.com