SPEAR Physical and Occupational Therapy has won the 2020 Ascend Practice of the Year Award and SymFit Physical Therapy and Fitness has won the Innovator of the Year Award. The awards were announced during the seventh-annual Ascend business summit, which took place virtually Sept 24–26.

“To be recognized as the Ascend Practice of the Year is an incredible honor, and one that is especially meaningful after the challenging year we — along with so many of our colleagues — have had.

“By staying true to our community, our core values, our therapists and our patients, we were able to rapidly innovate our services and take calculated risks that have propelled us through the COVID-19 storm. This recognition is extremely meaningful to the entire SPEAR team and will fuel our continued efforts to expand our impact and improve the world’s healthcare system.”

— Dan Rootenberg, PT, DPT, CSCS, CEO and co-founder of SPEAR Physical and Occupational Therapy

Telehealth Success Led to Award

SPEAR was selected as 2020’s Practice of the Year for the team’s ability to incorporate new technologies and strategies that kept their practice afloat throughout the COVID-19 lockdown. Within 9 days of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state of emergency declaration in New York, SPEAR had launched its branded telehealth service, SPEAR Live.

SPEAR saw its first telehealth visit on March 19, and within 12 business days, the clinic had already treated 3,921 patients via telehealth. To date, SPEAR has treated nearly 5,000 patients virtually and conducted more than 47,000 telehealth visits.

As a result of SPEAR’s telehealth success, the organization did not have to lay off or furlough a single physical therapist because of the pandemic. The company has also rebounded to more than 100% of target patient appointments at two of its clinics.

SPEAR also stood out from other award applicants due to its ability to quickly pivot communication strategies in line with current events. Recognizing that its community members were facing significant financial and logistical barriers to maintaining their health, SPEAR resolved to provide free health tips, advice and workouts in an effort to reach as many people as possible.

These efforts included instituting #MovementMondays on Instagram to engage viewers in free virtual workouts as well as launching the “Back to Life” Zoom webinar series to answer health-related questions and provide salient wellness tips, according to a media release.

Virtual Physical Therapy Also a Plus at SymFit

Similarly regarded for its technological aptitude and commitment to patient care is this year’s Innovator of the Year, SymFit Physical Therapy and Fitness. For more than 18 months before COVID-19 hit, SymFit had been providing virtual physical therapy services to out-of-town referrals with great results via the company’s proprietary virtual physical therapy platform, SymFitTV, which is an integral part to The SymFit Healthy Fitness System.

SymFitTV provides access to six layers of neutral spine conditioning to establish a foundation for long-term injury management and prevention. SymFitTV has been successful in progressing patients further and more quickly through their treatment plans than direct patient care provided at SymFit’s Denver facility.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, SymFit transformed its care model from offering bi-weekly, in-clinic maintenance sessions to providing weekly virtual physical therapy sessions, using SymFitTV to transfer responsibility for care to the patient, the release continues.

“SymFit has always been dedicated to advancing technology and innovation within our industry to challenge perceived healthcare borders and improve outcomes, so to be recognized for these efforts as Ascend’s Innovator of the Year is tremendous honor.

“COVID-19 provided us with a chance to virtually treat our long-time maintenance clients virtually with SymFitTV, proving our hypothesis that in-person care was creating a co-dependency and limiting compliance with prescribed home exercise programs. Our mission now is to share SymFitTV with the physical therapy community so that all practices have the technological resources to get the most out of every marketing dollar.”

— Todd Ball, PT, the clinical director and co-owner of SymFit Physical Therapy and Fitness