The Atlanta Small Business Profile – Brad Freemyer, A Step Ahead Physical Therapy

Today on Atlanta Small Business Profile, host and small business expert Ted Jenkin has a discussion with Brad Freemyer, Owner and Founder of A Step Ahead Physical Therapy. Freemyer’s business is based out of Roswell, GA and is committed to going the extra mile to provide individualized care for patients. A Step Ahead provides three core services which include rehabilitation, personal health and fitness, and corporate health management.

Transcription:

Ted Jenkin:
Hey, everybody. This is Ted Jenkin, small business expert right here on this week’s Atlanta Small Business Profile. And today we’re talking a little bit about physical therapy. I’ve got Brad Freemyer with me. He is the owner and founder of A Step Ahead Physical Therapy. And I know these are important times, not only for your mental health but your physical health as well. Brad, welcome to the program today. And I know that you’ve got a really impressive background in here, but what got you interested in getting into the business of physical therapy?

Brad Freemyer:
Ted, it’s a pleasure to be here. What got me into physical therapy, I guess it goes all the way back when I was a senior in high school and spent a weekend as a camp counselor for a camp for handicapped children who are away at a beach camp for a few days, to give them a chance to see things differently at the beach. And they’re having break or their parents in fact too. And just really enjoy the opportunity to feel like I was helping somebody. And so that just led me a few years later to realize I wanted to do something that involved being involved with people one-on-one, having chance to get to know them and help them in some capacity.

Ted Jenkin:
And Brad, you do a lot much more than corporate physical therapy for individuals. I saw that you also do corporate health programs. And I know today a lot of small companies are wondering about this idea of wellness, and I wonder if you could expand on that and programs that you’re doing right now to help companies increase the wellness of their employees beyond their financial pay.

Brad Freemyer:
We partner with another national company that provides services throughout the country. If we’re dealing with a corporation that has offices all over the country, we’ve got the ability to help all their employees, not just those near our clinic, how it works. We’re able to help in a couple of different ways. One way of looking at help preventing injuries. From a workers’ comp side of things, we’re seeing that companies are able to reduce their workers’ comp costs. But more importantly, they’re helping their employees keep from getting hurt.

Brad Freemyer:
It’s kind of a win-win. The company saves money. Their employees aren’t being hurt and are able to do their job more productively and so forth, and the individual gets to just feel better overall. It’s a great opportunity for companies to do that. We also help on just health promotion side. We’re all facing this COVID virus time period and what’s the number one thing that’s really driving the severe cases. People having health struggles and even death. It is comorbidities. If you’ve got diabetes, if you’ve got heart disease, you’ve had past stroke or various things like that, and all those things are really preventable.

Ted Jenkin:
I know some people talked about packing on the COVID 15 here. I know also it’s a big deal during this time. And you were very instrumental, Brad, in something called direct access and lobbying with the state of Georgia to make that happen. Tell folks what that’s about, because I think it’s quite amazing when any of our entrepreneurs here in Atlanta change the legislation and what we’re doing here in the state of Georgia.

Brad Freemyer:
I’ve been here in Georgia for over 30 years as a therapist. And one of the things that I’ve been passionate about is the fact that you as an individual living here in the state of Georgia should have access to good quality care, and you should be able to choose who you go to see. And basically, legally, we were restricted that you could not come to a physical therapist without having a referral or consultation from a physician before seeing the physical therapist.

Ted Jenkin:
Wow.

Brad Freemyer:
And so in 2015, we finally got some movement legislatively to where we are now allowed up to eight visits or 21 days of care without any referral or prescription from a physician. You can come off the street, walk in our doors and we’re legally able to treat you, to put you through a full evaluation and treatment without that referral requirement that we used to have.

Ted Jenkin:
Until the law changed, it wasn’t always that way. You’re the one that helped change that law here in the state of Georgia?

Brad Freemyer:
I was very involved. I had been involved previously as a … on the state licensing board. I served on that for several years, many years ago. And during that time, there was legislation put forth to change the law back then. And basically, I watched it go through the process and it basically ended up failing. We didn’t get the change we were looking for. And at that moment, I said, “If we ever get a chance to do it again, I’m going to get involved because I can’t complain, I can’t say anything if I haven’t given my best effort.” Then several years later, it came up in probably about 2013. We started meeting and discussing in an approach. And then by the year 2015, we were able get the law changed.

Ted Jenkin:
You know, Brad, physical therapy is so hands-on. Even my own mom during this coronavirus, unfortunately, started to get arthritis and she’s had to go to physical therapy. How are you managing working with patients during the coronavirus and the risks that you might face and the employees in your company and the risk that consumers base overall? How are you managing through it right now?

Brad Freemyer:
Well, it hasn’t been easy. And we’re learning day by day. We initially dropped all the way down to about only 10% of our business to protect our staff and our clients. And we converted to some of those into telehealth sessions. Even though we mostly think of us, our business as hands-on, we found that we actually had pretty good success with some telehealth sessions. And so we were able to slowly build some cases that way. And then over time we have figured out how to follow the CDC guidelines and so forth.

Brad Freemyer:
We’re wearing masks, wearing gloves, sanitizing, spacing our treatment tables and areas apart. Doing all the things that we know to do. We have had therapists that have had potential exposures outside the clinic through family or whatever. We’ve had to keep them at home for a period of time until we confirmed that they didn’t have it themselves. We’re being very cautious. We’re back up to about 80, 85% of capacity at this point.

Ted Jenkin:
Brad, you mentioned the term telehealth, which I know is really, it was already getting big pre-coronavirus. But how has telehealth changed your business and how do you think it’s going to change not only physical therapy, but the health business, business of health insurance and just health appointments overall going forward?

Brad Freemyer:
It’s going to be a big part of medicine going forward. I don’t think it’s something that’s just going to come and go.

Ted Jenkin:
Definitely not a fad though.

Brad Freemyer:
It gives us an opportunity for follow-up too. I can see somebody in the clinic, but then they tell me they’re doing their exercises in their home, or they’re having this problem at home. Well, we can schedule a session where I can put the camera right there at home, and I can be able to see what they’re describing and make changes. It really adds an extra tool that we didn’t have before so I really like it and look forward to having that opportunity to continue it going forward.

Ted Jenkin:
I think one of the biggest challenges for any business is marketing and getting new clients. What types of things have you had to do to pivot to not only retain your existing clients, but try to bring in new clients during this time or build yourself in a position to ramp up as hopefully we get through the coronavirus over the next six to 12 months?

Brad Freemyer:
We have always depended on our clients, our past clients to rave about us to their friends and family. That’s our biggest marketing. We really look to get results and ask our clients to go out and be our spokesperson for us. And we’ve been here for 13 years, and we have a great group of community that have used us in the past, and so we really depend on them to do that. Yes, we tried to do the social media thing. We’re not experts at it. We put stuff out there. We have a history of doing community service, community education. We’ve had therapists go to the local library to do talks on any given topic, health promotion type things.

Brad Freemyer:
We’ve done those talks here in the clinic. We do annual functional movement screening assessments where we have a competition once a year where we invite people to come in and just get a free screening of their movement quality and give out awards for whoever scores the best on that. We have local physical therapy schools that send teams and have a little competition amongst the doctors or physical therapy programs in the area. We just had a lot of fun with trying to educate the community on health topics.

Ted Jenkin:
Well, you mentioned this idea of functional movement, and I know on your website, you have an injury risk assessment. And I’m wondering for people that are watching the TV program today, or they’re seeing this online, what’s the number one mistake that people make when it comes to their bodies in general?

Brad Freemyer:
Well, they skip a step. They go straight to … They hear that the need to exercise or be active or whatever so they just go out and get active. And even if you can see on my sleeve here, we have our slogan that says Move Well, Move Often, Be Well. And so most people skip right to the move often part. And unfortunately when you do that and you’re not moving well, you’re using poor postures. You’re using poor movement patterns. Muscle memories is not there. You end up injuring or not getting the results that you expected, and so therefore y you kind of tail off. We have the January rush of everybody get moving often. And then by February, people are back to not doing it. And all of that is because they didn’t see the success. They didn’t see the results or they got hurt, one or the other.

Brad Freemyer:
And if you start with moving well, you’ll see the results. Unfortunately, most people need help in figuring out how to move well, and that’s where we come in. We try to teach people how to figure out how to move properly, how to exercise properly, and then they see the results.

Ted Jenkin:
Well, I want to say thank you so much for sharing your story today and say thanks for everything you’re doing for helping keep people healthy out there. And really just the power of keeping your staff during times like this to the coronavirus. Many businesses have not been able to do that. Brad, thanks so much for joining the program today. And folks, you heard it from Brad here at the end. He picked up his sleeve, and he talked about moving often and moving well and being well. Right? And if you could do those three things, think about how much more productive you can be personally and maybe even more productive in your business. Thanks again, Brad, for joining the show and thanks for joining me, Ted Jenkin, small business expert right here on this week’s Atlanta Small Business Profile.


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