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Episode 12

Thinking Globally and Acting Locally with PT Organizations

Athletico’s Senior VP of Clinical Operations, Brian Beaulieu, joins the show this week to talk about the importance of getting involved in local, state, and nationwide groups to better the Physical Therapy and Rehab space as a whole. Some of what we talk about: Why Brian is so passionate about advocating for being an advocate The TEAM Act – now called the EMPOWER Act (H.R. 4878/S. 2459) The importance of having your voice heard
Published on 08/14/2023
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Episode Transcript

Scott Rongo: Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, and welcome to the Therapy Matters podcast, your one-stop resource for expert insights and advice on everything therapy and rehab. I’m your host, Scott Rongo, and today I am joined by Brian Beaulieu, Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations with Athletico.

Hey, Brian, thanks for joining us today. 

Brian Beaulieu: Good morning, Scott. Thanks for having me. 

Scott Rongo: Absolutely. Hey, Brian, before we jump into the conversation, I think it’s probably good to maybe give a little bit of your background to what you’ve done in this space and how long you’ve been around and give a little context to why you might have a vested interest in this conversation.

Brian Beaulieu: Sure. I’ve been in the health care space for 34 years. I spent some time as a medical sales rep when I first got out of undergrad. After about seven years, I realized I made a vocational error and went back to PT school. It was probably the best decision I ever made for myself. I have a true passion for what we do as clinicians and advocating as we’ll talk about.

I’ve been in the outpatient space all of my career. I’ve been in every seat you could occupy. I’ve been a staff therapist. I’ve been a clinical manager, regional manager, regional director, vice president, all the way up to where I currently sit. I’ve made all the stops along the way in outpatient PT. 

Scott Rongo: Well, it sounds like you certainly will have a unique perspective and view then of the space and the conversation we’re going to have today. I know in conversations that you and I have had in the past at different events that we’ve both attended, you very much have been an advocate for being an advocate in this space and being involved and getting involved outside of perhaps just seeing your patients or running your business within your own facility. Just to give some color and context to one, why you’re so passionate around that, and two, what are some of the hot topics that are out there right now for people to be keeping their ear to the ground on? 

Brian Beaulieu: I think it starts for most of us in PT school where many of us are given extra credit to join an organization, like the local APTA or APTQI.

It starts out that way, and then probably most people tend to drift away from it as they get busy with day-to-day life and work, not maintaining a membership in those organizations. But it really is that old saying of think globally and act locally. There’s plenty of organizations that impact your local regions.

I maintain that interest and always operate on the premise of if you’re not in the room to offer feedback, you’re not part of the solution or part of the decisions that eventually get made. I think for those listening and watching, it’s a matter of do you want your voice heard? Do you want to be part of making the decision, or do you want the decision to impact you without your input? 

Scott Rongo: Brian, if you look at it right now, what are some of the core issues that are being either proposed or considered that we need to make sure we’re being mindful of? 

Brian Beaulieu: Scott, the top priority right now is getting the Team Act introduced, which we hope will happen in Q2 of this year. The Team Act, I’d like everybody to remember, is the Therapeutic Equity and Access to Medicare. It surrounds the topic of general supervision versus direct supervision for PTAs in the outpatient space. That is something general supervision exists in every other form, whether it be home therapy or the hospitals, but we are held to a different standard, which nobody can seem to explain, in the outpatient world. This bill, when introduced, if supported and passed, will allow us to continue general supervision, which has been granted us during the public health emergency. But it’s set to expire in January 1, so action is required. 

Scott Rongo: That clearly is going to be a critical milestone for the space, particularly when you start thinking about rising costs, lower reimbursements. Being able to have that general oversight and supervision is going to be, I think, critical to be continued.

Any other topics that we want to make sure that our listeners are mindful of and being engaged in?

Brian Beaulieu: Yes, certainly. While the Team Act impacts our profession directly, and Congressman Larry Bucshon out of Illinois also has a bill he’s introduced, which is House Bill 2474, which essentially, on a high level, deals with reimbursement rates and attaching an inflationary component to that. Instead of continuous cuts, we are getting adjustments based on inflation, which we haven’t seen to date. That, again, another one to make sure we’re supporting federal legislation that we need to be supporting as a profession. 

Scott Rongo: Brian, clearly, you’re very well engaged and clearly well connected. For our listeners that might not really be in the know, how would you suggest that people can get in the know? How do people keep an ear to the ground on some of these hot topics? I think getting to the point of tactical moves that you can do to help is one thing, and I think we’ll get there in the conversation, but any suggestions on how listeners can again, keep their ear to the ground and be in the know of some of these topics so that they can take action appropriately?

Brian Beaulieu: I would say number one, again, to our earlier conversation, you have to be involved. You have to be engaged with one of the organizations that represents our industry, whether that’s APTA, there are local chapters in every state that you can engage locally. Again, APTQI, advocating for the profession, but they disseminate a tremendous amount of information regularly. There’s a podcast the APTA has that you can engage with. That’s just a general, as you said, keep your ear to the ground and understand what’s happening. To me, that’s step one. Be informed. I think traditionally, our industry, we might have a challenge with that of our constituents in the profession, knowing what’s coming down the pike and being able to act on that.

Scott Rongo: I know we recently had Justin Moore, the president of APTA on, and I know he is clearly welcoming of as many participants in this space as possible to be able to one, distribute information, but then two, also, there’s an opportunity to where the more you’re engaged and the more really active engagement within organizations such as APTA, the bigger impact it can have on the overall industry and these types of challenges that it’s facing.

I think also the other dynamic is people get tied up. They’re dealing with their own personal lives. They’re seeing their patients. They’re running their businesses, whether it might be one clinic or hundreds. People are busy. The immediate reaction oftentimes on these types of things is, I just don’t have time. Also, what can my one voice, what kind of impact can it really have? It’s like with voting. A lot of people have this mindset throughout our country. It’s like, well, what’s one vote going to do? 

But it really can have an impact. I’d be curious as to ideas and thoughts and unique perspectives of what can people do? How do people take action? To your point, getting involved is step number one. But are there other things that people can do to tactically have an impact on some of these rules that might be proposed or things that we want to make sure we help the space take action that’s good for the group. 

Brian Beaulieu: I guess I would affirm that you feel a little helpless in the clinic when you’re busy, and you are one voice. But collectively, we have made things happen throughout the history of therapy, direct access, another case in point. Missouri just passed their local legislation in Missouri for direct access. That was a collaboration. That was many voices speaking to the same issue. Again, I can confirm that I know that feeling. But collectively, when you get an outreach from an organization that says, can you send a letter to your senator? Can you send a letter to your congressman? It doesn’t take long. You have to join the many voices that are out there so that collectively, we can make some change. One, I would say that’s an easy do. Respond to one of those APTQI or APTA request to send a letter. 

The second, I think, and sometimes more importantly, is our patients are our best advocates. They love us. The affirmation we get from our patients on a daily basis, that’s better than the paycheck. But they can do the same thing for us with congress. The next time a patient says, what can I do? We don’t need any more cookies or brownies, but I would love it if you would reach out to a local legislator or to a federal congressperson and say, the PT was the best thing that ever happened to me, and I need you to support this legislation. We need to wrap ourselves in our patients in that blanket and use them to help us get what we need. 

Scott Rongo: Maybe it’s even a matter of helping spoon feed them. To your point, your patient might not know how to take an action. Creating even just a simple one pager to give to your patients to give them guidance on what they can do to help certainly might go a long way. I think to your point, patients want to help. I personally have spent time with a PT. I have children that both have spent time with the PT, and the work that you all do certainly is so impactful in our healthcare ecosystem. I think to your point, instead of the cookies or brownies, I think most patients would certainly be willing to help be advocates on your behalf.

Brian Beaulieu: Yes, and to that point, Scott, that reminds me. The other thing you can do is be aware of who your local legislative folks are in federal level. Sometimes we’re disengaged. I know the political arena is not for everyone, but just being armed with that information. If that patient, you have somebody you want to take action on your part, again, spoon feed them. Give them the person that you want them to reach out to. 

Scott Rongo: Brian, let’s take a step back into your early days. What did that look like for you? How did you get involved from the very beginning?

Brian Beaulieu: It goes back to that premise of wanting to be part of the decision or have a voice or understand the issues. I think most of us start out as APTA members in our programs because I was getting extra points on an exam for it and didn’t really understand the impact of the association on our profession. That led to local chapter meetings here in Virginia, the Tidewater chapter of the APTA. Again, that sense of wanting to be involved and being a secretary of the chapter and moving up in the ranks and going to local caucus meetings for students and educating them, you get insight, and you start to understand the core issues and how you can have an impact.

Sometimes you feel frozen. I don’t know what I can do. Those forums are really helpful in saying, okay, this is what you need to do to target your activity. It started that way and has evolved every year to involve becoming a member of the pack or donating to a pack. The political action committees that you may or may not be aware of, they’re out there. They’re supporting us. They’re important for getting in front of congressional leaders. That was another step of understanding what a political action committee does, and then to the point of now where at Athletico, I’m part of going out and advocating directly with federal legislators in DC on the Hill.

It’s been an evolution. I think people need to look at it as an evolution. You’re not going to make the biggest impact right away, but you need to get it germinated and start moving in that direction. Within my organization, or historically throughout my career, I’ve always had a government affairs section to a meeting where I let folks that work for us know what’s happening, keep them abreast. That kind of thing gets shared organically in the profession. PT, it’s a pretty small world. You cross paths with a lot of people all the time where you can share that information, or are you aware? We’re a large group, but there’s a lot of grassroots activity going on. That’s been my evolution. 

Scott Rongo: I think that’s an interesting thought and idea and perspective of if you’re going to have a meeting internally, to your point, you’re going to have some people that are very involved and that are in the know, but put it on the agenda. Have that conversation. You never know. It only takes one person to hear the message one time for them to maybe say, I want to be involved bigger and at a deeper level. I think it’s a great idea, just one, education, but two, almost a little bit of a recruitment, if you will, for getting people more involved in the process.

Brian Beaulieu: Right.

Scott Rongo: Well, Brian, I think that is about the amount of time that we have today. But this is such an important topic that I think we’ve got to make sure we keep it top of mind and keep people just engaged. To your point, you can’t have an impact if you’re not involved. Being an active involved participant in the process is, I think, so critical.

Any parting words for our audience? 

Brian Beaulieu: One last thing I would say to the leaders who are hearing this in the space, it’s incumbent on us to make sure our new entrants into the profession understand the importance of this and that you bring it up your regional and local meetings that we can’t force our colleagues to be part of it, but I think you got to keep talking about it and make it resonate with them, so they understand it. That’s incumbent on us to do that, and you have my commitment that I will keep beating this drum as long as I can. 

Scott Rongo: Excellent. Great point, Brian. Well, thank you for joining us today, very much appreciated. Audience, thank you for tuning in to the Therapy Matters podcast, your one-stop resource for expert insights and advice and everything therapy and rehab.

We look forward to seeing you on the next episode. Have a great afternoon.