Marathon Health’s one-on-one series highlights the role different care providers play in improving employee health at the worksite, at a nearby Network health center or virtually. In this blog, we spoke to Will Fogarty, a licensed physical therapist at Marathon Health, who helps city employees improve musculoskeletal issues and balance disorders so they can focus on work without pain and worry.
Musculoskeletal conditions affect over 124 million adults in the United States annually, impacting nearly half of all people over age 18 and resulting in 364 million days of lost work.
These conditions, including lower back pain, joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and more, typically require physical therapy through an outpatient treatment center. Yet, some employers see the benefits of bringing physical therapy onsite to the workplace as part of their employee health center.
Will Fogarty works as a physical therapist at Marathon Health @ Tower Place, one of six dedicated employer health centers for City of Charlotte employees in North Carolina. The city’s workforce, from public safety officers to office workers, can all access unlimited physical therapy visits — along with primary care, wellness services and mental health support — at no or low cost through their employer benefits with the city.
As part of a comprehensive care team, Will works alongside a physician, nurse practitioner, medical assistants, health coaches and a behavioral health specialist to provide high-quality care to thousands of city employees.
“Our providers will let a member know, ‘Hey, we provide physical therapy in-house,’ because oftentimes they aren’t aware they have the option,” Will says. “Usually, we can schedule an appointment for the member right then and there.”
A Typical Day for a Physical Therapist at an Employer Health Center
Will loves his job because he not only gets to help people improve their quality of life, but also because no day’s ever the same. A typical day involves a mix of initial evaluations with new members and follow-up appointments.
He sees around seven to nine members per day. Initial evaluations are scheduled for an hour, while follow-up visits last 45 minutes. He says lower back pain is by far the most common condition he treats, along with sore shoulders, knees and necks.
“There are just as many people who have active physical jobs that have aches and pains as people who work at a desk and don’t get a lot of movement,” Will says.
Spouses and dependents on the city’s health plan, as well as retirees, can also access physical therapy services through Marathon Health, so Will often sees a diverse mix of members throughout the day.
“Sometimes I’ll be working with teenagers, and other times I work with members in their 60s and 70s,” Will says. “But most members fall in the 30 to 50 age range.”
Will says the Marathon Health model prioritizes building deep member-provider relationships, so in addition to the longer appointment times, he only sees members on a one-on-one basis.
“One of the benefits of Marathon Health is that we promise our members that when they’re here, our sole attention is focused on them,” Will says. “It allows us to go deeper into answering any questions they have, to ensure they understand what they need to do at home. It helps us to establish a good relationship with the member and build trust so everyone’s on the same page.”
Physical Therapy Helps Employees with Dizziness and Balance Disorders
When not treating members for tennis elbow or on-the-job sprains, Will provides a unique specialization of physical therapy for City of Charlotte employees.
“I have specialized training in dizziness and balance disorders,” Will says. “The general public, and sometimes even medical providers, are typically unaware that physical therapy can help with these disorders.”
Will says many people struggle with a condition called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, which causes periods of intense dizziness. It can be debilitating to the point it causes people to become homebound or struggle with daily life.
“There are types of dizziness that can sometimes be reversed completely in just one visit,” Will says. “I’ll walk the member through a specific sequence of movements and sometimes we can fully eliminate the problem in one or two sessions and get them back to 100 percent.
“And usually, people are totally shocked because they’re like, ‘It’s so debilitating. How could it reverse so quickly?’” he adds. “It makes it very rewarding when you have that patient that’s been unable to do anything for months, sometimes years, and then you see them one time and they’re like, ‘You’ve changed my life.’”
Focusing on Employees Makes Physical Therapist’s Role Rewarding
Will says Marathon Health enables him to spend enough time to talk with members, understand their concerns and offer a solution to provide relief, which he describes as a “unique and awesome” job opportunity.
Because the service bypasses insurance entirely, members with a PPO plan never have to pay a copay and can schedule as many physical therapy appointments as necessary.
“I really like not having the constraints of insurance to work around, because it often becomes a hindrance when you work in the outpatient physical therapy world,” Will says. “I can do what’s best for the patient without worrying if insurance will cover enough visits. Whether it’s dizziness or orthopedic stuff, more often than not, we’re able to find something that significantly improves their pain or their ability to move within the first session.”