APTA NEXT: The Future Is Now

In All, Business, Lifestyle, Medicine by Ben

This past week, the American Physical Therapy Association hosted their NEXT conference in Nashville, Tennessee. To say that the conference was spectacular, would be a gross understatement. The raw energy, spirit, hunger, and drive… from president, to CEO, to directors, to the delegates, to the attendees, and especially… the students!

It was uncontainable.

And, things are changing… FAST. Not a handful of months ago, APTA’s Combined Sections Meeting was held in Anaheim, California. You can read up on our thoughts & reflections:

Even just those short months ago, the prevalence of physical therapy professionals being active on social media left much to be desired, reflecting the further gaps of engagement we all desire. Well… check this out:


Who’s on Twitter?

PS. Blog post to mention all you who did that tweet storm with me, is just around the corner!


And, all that, is but the tip of the iceberg.

For me, NEXT had several themes:

  • Remembering the origin stories of physical therapy
  • Seeking to empower young professionals for a strong future
  • The making of physical therapists as primary care providers
  • Embracing cognitive diversity, beyond social justice; it’s an issue of future proofing our success
  • Remember the source code… the human connection
  • Staying on the leading edge of technology
  • Breaking new ground through disruptive innovation

And, just in case you didn’t notice, these themes were as diverse as they could be… almost in conflict. It should make one wonder… were there several conferences going on at the same time? Why so many different themes? Why were themes seemingly in competition with each other? Well… explaining away how all these things can co-exist & in fact, thrive in unison are…!


My Top Three Takeaways

1. Success requires no permission.
You don’t need ANY permission to be successful. You don’t need the permission of your bosses. You don’t need permission of “5 years of experience.” You don’t need permission of referring providers. And, you certainly don’t need permission from precedences being set forth in the past. You want success? Take it. Make it yours. That is what our founders did. That is what our leaders are doing. And, that is what I hope that you will do! The only people who impose permissions upon success are those who have topped out on their own.

2. Better Together, Stronger United.
No matter how different the settings, specialities, methods, and approaches may vary in physical therapy… we ultimately have far more in common than we do in conflict. We are better in convergence, than divergence. Trust me, I’ve worked in all the settings. I’ve lived this. Let us celebrate what makes each practice unique. BUT, do not let it divide us. A unified front is always stronger than a splintered edge. As we spread our roots, we unite at the core so that we can grow our branches and blossom. THAT, is how we honor our past as we make strong our future.

3. Never Settle.
Never settle for ANYTHING. Don’t ever settle for a bad offer, for mediocre outcomes, a suboptimal situation, or a restrictive environment. If what you are looking for doesn’t exist out there, make it exist. If you don’t like what you see, change it. If what’s going on out there isn’t “cutting it,” find another way… a way that works. Expanding our arenas of focus, capabilities, and channels of service doesn’t mean we are betraying the cause. No. By doing so, we are indeed fighting FOR the cause. We’re making it bigger, grander, to span across numerous dimensions of interest, growth, and value.


There were also many deep and profoundly exciting conversations with new grads and students alike. Here are some highlights:

  • At the Student Assembly Neighborhood: Scott McAfee, “The time of the 9-5 mindset is dead.”
  • I was asked how to market physical therapy so that it becomes engrained into consumer culture. My answer: Look at dentists. Dentists established the strongest marketing presence in our growing culture through kindergarteners. Every day, they have their lunch then brush their teeth as a class. When they grow up, they go to the dentist every six months BECAUSE YOU JUST DO! People don’t go to the dentist weeks or months after your teeth falls out. We go every 6 months to make sure that never becomes close to a reality. We all know that’s too late! Which is why, we go have check-ups. Similarly, we need to invest; spend dollars to make dollars. We need to seed that message to see your physical therapist; not after injury, not after we feel like our bodies have fallen apart, not after we’ve been in pain for years, or, while we tolerate our body being physically suboptimal. The message needs to be seeded young: See your physical therapist for optimal human experience! (And, that “see” will very likely take technological venues going forward)
  • The treatment table and the clinic walls are the most RESTRICTIVE elements to the growth of the physical therapy profession at large.
  • There are MANY pathways that lead to success. You need to define that for yourself. Then, relentlessly pursue it. I talked to many students who were committed to residency before opening up their own business. I talked to students who are set on making 6-figures, right out of school. Don’t think it’s possible? It certainly is. And, it starts with MINDSET.
  • Disruption happens not with new things. Disruption happens with new WAYS. New ways to deliver value, new combinations to more optimally fulfill jobs the marketplace demands. New behaviors which resonate with the way people experience their lives and want to.
  • The profession of physical therapy is plain awesome. It’s on us, to make it even more. We owe it to each other as colleagues. And, more importantly, we owe it to our patients, our customers, our stakeholders… society.

Which then leads to the topic of the APTA Student Assembly #XChangeSA Chat tomorrow: Membership Value.


The thing about membership is…


So, don’t miss out! The chat is tomorrow: June 14th, 2016 at 9pm EST. If you want to see the full clip, you can do so below. Remember, SHARE that energy. SHARE that passion. SHARE… so we can all grow, together.

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