“Blue Ocean” is a business term, typically inferring an area of a market, profession, or industry that is largely unexplored, untapped, or uncontested — ripe, ready, and waiting for growth. While there is always much for all of us to learn, do, and grow within the clinical settings… I believe that the future of physical therapy also holds many opportunities to be realized outside of the clinic.
Beyond The Clinic: A Blue Ocean For Physical Therapy
PT as Administrator
There has been a rapid trend of fresh Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Assistants getting promoted to supervisor / staff management positions, before they even reach five years of experience in practice. There are many variables involved in this trend; primarily, this is an effort of companies wanting to grow their own leaders while containing the costs of hiring experienced and or seasoned managers who would otherwise cost a company more money.
HOWEVER, this is NOT the level of blue ocean business administration that I hope to see Physical Therapists to set course for. Think beyond the clinic director or DOR. Think even beyond rehab business manager or director of ambulatory and rehab services. Think BIG. Think, system director of occupational health, COO of a hospital, or director of musculoskeletal case management. Think ecosystems and beyond!
Think about the contribution in both added value and cost alleviation that could come to bear if a Physical Therapist was in the c-suite of a major health system.
PT in the Community
En masse, Physical Therapists just aren’t that present within the eye of neighborhood communities. Typically, you’ll see physicians, dentists, teachers, club members, coaches, etc. I think it’s high time for PTs to make themselves known as community leaders, volunteers, and contributors. Now, not that there are zero PTs doing this… it’s just a rare find to see a PT in a block party, yearly parade, county fair, etc.
Just think on the impact a Physical Therapist could have as a figure and influencer within a town, city, or even a region.
Nearly every place I visit tends to have “the name” in *insert interest/topic here.” The region’s biggest name in real estate, or the personal injury attorney everyone knows of, or a local high school sports team that regularly sends students into college scholarships, and from there, the pro-draft. Getting this level of community recognition requires that we give from the heart, are accessible online, and have an intimate understanding of how and why grassroots movement blossom.
PT in Politics
Yeah, I know… politics isn’t exactly what people want to discuss these days. STILL! I ask: Is there any sector more intimate with legislation than politics? After all, our licenses are governed by law. Anyone can get any level of training they want; if you’re a licensed professional within healthcare, you are bound by the laws that guide your Can Do’s and Cannot Do’s.
The inspiring thing is that we are seeing hints of this coming to bear.
Within this area of the blue ocean, there needs to be a flooding presence of young professionals investing their time in the advocacy of the profession and the people whom we serve. It is through these efforts that improvements shall be made; from the letter of the law to the purchasing behaviors in the marketplace.
PT in Technology
As someone with an engineering background, I can tell you this: If we don’t make the technology to solve the problems we have answers to, someone else will. And, worse… because we don’t define ourselves, someone else will do it for us & very likely not in the light we desire.
Whether it is the better axillary crutch, hip fracture preventing airbags for high fall risk patient populations, or communication technologies; if we don’t jump on these areas of innovation, others will invent them without us… without our input & without best practice expertise. And, when we finally desire to make the better version of it from a clinician’s standpoint… the market will not care. We will be too late to the party.
Despite all this, I’m really happy to see that over the last 18 months, more and more PTs are looking to get into it. PTs don’t HAVE to be the engineers, coders, and programers. Rather, we need to partner with people that do all those things and serve as the content experts in the space.
We need to get over our fears of collaboration as well as our penchant to confine ourselves to the treatment room. We need to expand our interests; after all, our customers are already doing that.
PT in Entertainment
Becoming mainstream anything is a big deal. In recent times, medical dramas such as ER, House MD & Grey’s Anatomy have made the medical and healthcare professions that much more glamorous and mainstream.
The good news is, PTs are getting there! Queen Latifah played a roll as a Physical Therapist, and, there has been many mentions in popular shows such as the Breaking Bad spin off, Better Call Saul, of course… the Aflac duck commercials — just to name a few. Now, while they aren’t the most accurate depictions of what Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Assistants “do” in their clinical work, what matters is that the name is getting out there.
The dream here is to get our profession to a point where it becomes a known household dinner topic. This, will ultimately do wonders for our mis-matched professional branding issues with one of the most important barriers to brand recognition: EXPOSURE.
The core of who we are as physical therapists will always revolve around our clinical competencies. This, will never change. However, we would be missing great opportunities if our orbit remained so narrow that we fail to explore the galaxy of opportunities that await us. Many healthcare professions have already charted their blue oceans out. It’s time for us to do the same and do it with a flourish!