Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine opened a clinic Monday at 135 South Main St. in West Hartford.
By Ronni Newton
Most people are familiar with physical therapy as treatment to restore function after a traumatic injury or surgery, or something to help serious athletes, but Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine (PTSMC) Managing Partner Tom Kassan, who opened his West Hartford clinic May 6 at 135 South Main St., wants the public to know that physical therapy is also a key part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
“PT for Life” is the company’s tagline, and the foundation of the PTSMC’s culture. “It captures several different things,” Kassan said, from the goal of helping patients maintain an active lifestyle to the managing partner’s own commitment to and involvement in the fabric of their community.
Kassan, who personally enjoys hiking, running, and other outdoor sports, said that he knows how important it is to remain active, and how frustrating it is when injuries – even small injuries – impede that lifestyle.
“Most people walk around with minor aches and pains, and that ultimately limits them. Sometimes it’s just a simple thing,” he said, that a few physical therapy sessions can take care of and allow the patient to get back to enjoying their lifestyle quickly – while preventing a small, nagging problem from becoming more serious.
His focus is on function, on helping patients reach their goals, and on developing a long-term relationship with his patients and serving as a resource.
The new state-of-the-art West Hartford clinic – located in the space at the corner of South Main Street and Sedgwick Road formerly occupied by Revival Home Furnishings – has all of the equipment you would expect to find in a healthcare facility, but looks more like a fitness studio. The furnishings are bright and modern, and sunlight streams in through the large windows.
Since direct access to physical therapists became permissible just over a decade ago, and since new therapists now must earn a doctor of physical therapy degree, the nature of the practice has changed. There is no need for a physician referral before making an appointment with a physical therapist – who has been taught how to evaluate the nature of a problem, can screen for serious medical issues like cancer or organ issues, and will know whether or not a doctor visit may be needed.
Kassan said that getting involved with patients directly, and earlier in the process, often avoids costly orthopedic procedures, and can save money for the patient as well as the healthcare system as a whole – and get patients back to enjoying their lifestyle sooner.
“We aim to be the first touchpoint for people in the medical system,” said PTSMC Marketing Director Peter Decoteau. Connecticut is a direct access state, so someone who has rolled an ankle, or is suffering from vertigo, can make an appointment to see Kassan and get an expert opinion and treatment plan, he said.
Yes, vertigo can often cured after a few physical therapy visits, where a trained therapist utilizes maneuvers to treat mechanical ear imbalances which are often the cause of the dizziness. Kassan has had specialized training in treatment of vertigo, as well as orthopedics, impact (concussion), and vestibular rehabilitation, and is getting his certification in trigger point needling this year.
“Movement is medicine,” Kassan said. His goal is to get a patient in better condition from day one. “There’s emerging evidence that early movement is key to quicker improvement” even from that little nagging pain.
Another cornerstone of “PT for Life,” said Decoteau, is providing customer-centric care. The corporate philosophy includes building a relationship with the patient from their first contact on the phone or with the person at the front desk, to initial evaluations – which are generally an hour, longer than at other clinics – and throughout the duration of the patient’s care.
Kassan, who graduated from the University of Vermont and obtained his DPT at UConn, worked for another physical therapy company before joining PTSMC’s Newington location last year in preparation for opening his own clinic. He’s impressed with the company’s internal mentorship program, where new graduates work with a mentor for the first several years. There are ample opportunities for continuing education to constantly elevate the level of knowledge of the therapists, and promote lifelong learning and clinical excellence, Kassan said, and PTSMC has just started an orthopedic residency program.
The clinic that Kassan opened this week is PTSMC’s 22nd location in Connecticut, where they are the largest private-practice physical therapy company in the state. The clinics span the state, from the shoreline, to the New Milford/Southbury area, to Greater Hartford, and the company is looking at additional sites for future clinics throughout the state, Decoteau said.
The company started in 2000 when now-President Alan Balavender launched a PTSMC clinic in Waterbury, and has long had a West Hartford presence with its administrative offices on North Main Street.
PTSMC has expanded through a partnership model, with managing partners, who are all physical therapists, running their own clinics in a community they live in or near (Kassan’s wife is a West Hartford native, and he has lived in town for seven years) – owning their own businesses but supported by the corporate structure which handles the logistics and ensures that all the clinic partners, therapists, and other employees feel they are part of a team.
The partnership model allows the company to be nimble, Decoteau said, and allows partners to stay fresh and current, to try new things, in treatment as well creative ways of accessing treatment.
“We’re really looking to remove all barriers for people to get the care they need,” said Kassan.
And with the opening of the West Hartford clinic, PTSMC has fulfilled one of its corporate goals, Decoteau said: filling up the schedule in the first week. Kassan, who has been treating patients in Newington as well in the company’s Avon clinic, has 30 patients already on the schedule for the first week.
During the month of May, PTSMC will be open in West Hartford on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 7 a.m.-1 p.m., and on Tuesday and Thursday from 1-7 p.m. Beginning in June, the West Hartford clinic will be open daily from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
For more information, or to schedule an appointment online, visit the website www.ptsmc.com/west-hartford.
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