Providing Sports Medicine and Allied Healthcare Services

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-By Robert Hoshowsky

In today’s world, many of us are realising life isn’t about just living longer, but living better. Existing to a ripe old age is one thing, but remaining active and healthy, with less pain in our bodies, and having more energy and a positive mental outlook is essential to all stages of life.

As Australia’s largest provider of sports medicine and allied healthcare services, LifeCare believes its clients can embrace life and all that it has to offer to the fullest each day. Providing a wide range of allied health and sports medicine services, LifeCare has 38 practices throughout New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia; in NSW and Queensland, the practices operate under the ‘Health Networks Australia’ brand. LifeCare’s team of qualified, personable, and enthusiastic practitioners is proud to offer the highest standard of health services across the nation, with a sophisticated, integrated multi-disciplinary approach to health management.

“If you use Victoria as just one example, we have about 3,000 treatments a week,” says Michael Kenihan, General Manager of LifeCare Victoria. With a career in sports medicine that spans over 20 years, Mr Kenihan has worked hands-on in the field, not only in physiotherapy as an APA Sports Physiotherapist and Fellow of the Australian Sports Medicine Federation, but also as a manager, administrator, and executive dealing with finance, legal aspects, Information Technology, Human Resources, and more. One of the founders of the organisation, Mr Kenihan, 56, works full-time as an Administrator for LifeCare, and is widely recognised and respected in the field of sports medicine and health care.

To appreciate how LifeCare came to prominence, it is necessary to understand its past. Beginning as two separate organisations, the LifeCare name came from a highly successful network of practices in Perth that began in 1985. At about the same time, Sports Medicine Centres of Victoria developed a number of large multi-disciplinary sports medicine practices based on successful practices at Prahran and Ashwood. In 2000, LifeCare and Sports Medicine Centres of Victoria merged to become the largest network of physiotherapy and allied health private practices in Australia. Mr Kenihan was a sports physiotherapist, a partner in Sports Medicine Centres of Victoria, and soon became an executive for LifeCare.

At LifeCare, clients can benefit from an expansive range of services including treatment for sports and work-related injuries, physiotherapy, podiatry, spinal management clinics and workfit, Pilates, massage therapy, dietetics, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, psychology, BabySwim, ArthroLife, and other Allied Health Services. To make access to clinicians and services as simple as possible, LifeCare offers same day appointments, weekend and after normal business hours services, facilities and equipment of the highest standards, consistent opening hours and access to a therapist of your choice, easily accessible locations with available parking, caring and professional staff, and services at a price the community can afford. Today, the entire LifeCare business model maintains Mr Kenihan’s initial vision of providing a range of quality health-related services offered by trained clinicians.

“From scratch, we developed five, multi-disciplinary sports medicine centres under Sports Medicine Centres of Victoria,” he says. After listing on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), LifeCare merged with Foundation Healthcare to form IPN. Listed as a public company, Mr Kenihan and his partners felt the entity had become too corporate, and bought back the LifeCare side of the business from IPN in 2006. Today, LifeCare is an ever-expanding network of multi-disciplinary sports medicine and complementary health care services, including health and well-being programs, evidence-based practice clinical and research programs, pain management services, and a great deal more. All practitioners who are part of the LifeCare network are at the forefront of clinical education, and known across Australia for providing excellence in patient care.

Within the LifeCare network, there are approximately 150 clinicians and practitioners offering a vast range of health-related expertise and services. This includes a number of Equity Partners in LifeCare’s unique business model, which has been designed to have clinicians partake in equity participation at each practice. “If you’re a suitably motivated and capable clinician who works at Practice A, you are able to buy units in that practice’s trust, and become an equity holder in that practice,” says Mr Kenihan. “Of the 38 practices, 28 have equity partners who are clinicians or practitioners.” With a state, holding, and practice trust, there is truly no other business model like LifeCare. “There are plenty of private healthcare practices who have one or two branches with equity partners, but not on a national sort of scope.” One of the biggest advantages of the equity participation model is a high degree of retention. “We find that the retention of practitioners improves with this model, along with motivation and engagement,” states Mr Kenihan. “We also find that those equity participants become leaders and exemplars of how people should behave.”

To streamline operations, there are a number of administrative and support staff who work in the individual practices. At the LifeCare Central Office, all financing, reporting, compliance, payroll, and accounts payable for all practices is handled in one location to avoid duplication.

The four basic goals for clinicians within LifeCare are: clinical excellence, commercial success, cultural leadership (through the equity participation model), and a high level of customer service. For clinicians who are part of the LifeCare network, remaining at the forefront of clinical education is essential to maintaining best practice and providing client care that is second to none. This is achieved through LifeCare’s rigorous clinical mentoring program conducted at a practice and a network level. To maximise commercial outcomes the LifeCare network, clinicians and staff benefit from the organisation’s commercial mentoring program, which focuses on how to develop a practice, maximise earning potential and achieve key performance indicator targets.

“Most clinician training programs do not assist people with business planning; that’s why we do it,” says Mr Kenihan. “We have a very strong mentoring structure with our staff and practitioners. Every young clinician has a clinical mentor who helps to develop clinical skills, and they have a commercial mentor, who teaches them business principles to assist them to grow their business as contractors. You need clinical mentoring and commercial mentoring to cover both sides of that equation.”

While the mentoring is not mandatory among LifeCare clinicians and practitioners, the majority opt to engage in the process, as they realise the enormous benefits it has to developing their practice. “There are plenty of gifted clinicians out there who aren’t able to build successful practices because they don’t understand any of the business principles. We like to say, ‘private practice is a clinical pursuit, but it’s also a business pursuit.'”

Clinicians participating in the commercial mentoring program have a planning document called Achieving Your Career Objectives, which outlines individual goal-setting in the first year. This document is reviewed with the clinician each quarter to evaluate and support progress. Clinical mentoring sessions occur on a weekly basis where specific treatments and techniques are discussed. The mentoring process is supported by a comprehensive Intranet, which has a range of supportive documents and commercial statistics that can be reviewed for all clinicians across the entire business.

Marketing is fundamental to the commercial mentoring process at LifeCare. “We believe the critical component of marketing in health services is relationship marketing – it’s about building relationships with your patients and your referrers,” comments Mr Kenihan. Accordingly, LifeCare conducts regular Relationship Marketing and Business Development education sessions to develop marketing skills in the clinician group. Each clinician also keeps a “referral tracker”, enabling analysis of referral sources and development of an effective marketing plan.

Along with offering a range of services and treatments for sports and work-related injuries, LifeCare actively embraces new technologies and clinical advances. “We are moving toward a paperless environment which includes the capacity for online appointments. Our website is an interactive resource for clients wanting expert information or advice. We also are about to launch a website page where clients can view videos of their home exercise program.” From a clinical perspective, LifeCare is developing a network of unique standalone Clinical Pilates centres. For clients with chronic pain, with or without psychological issues, LifeCare has three practices offering multidisciplinary pain management, which sees a pain physician, psychologist, and a physiotherapist working in a coordinated and effective manner, often using group sessions. “The two growth areas in Australia in medicine are mental health and pain, which is often the result of car accidents, work accidents, chronic back pain, failed surgeries, and occupational-type injuries,” says Mr Kenihan.

Most exciting of all is the ongoing investigation by LifeCare into developing treatments using stem cell technology for such conditions as joint arthritis, which would – in the case of knee pain – serve to prolong the life of the joint prior to knee replacement. “It’s a treatment to improve peoples’ level of activity longer and reduce their pain,” comments Mr Kenihan. LifeCare hopes to partner with a major university on research and compliance issues, and commence stem cell treatments by the middle of this year. A number of LifeCare clinicians lecture widely across Australia and overseas on stem cells as well as other health areas, particularly in the area of shoulder treatment, hip and groin injuries, and lower back problems.

“Our vision is to develop an expanding Australia wide network of private practices, each with a clinician equity partner, and driven by a sustainable growth model that includes unique and high value clinical services,” concludes Mr Kenihan.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 16, 2018, 3:54 PM AEDT