Services catered to today’s health trends

By Rajitha Sivakumaran

physio extra brochureWhat does a Montreal-based production company have in common with one of the largest networks of private rehabilitation hospitals in Quebec? The same man, Alain Racine, was behind both ventures.

Racine established himself at a small community hospital in New Brunswick shortly after graduating from the Université de Montréal in the 1990s. He also dabbled in the show business industry. “As you can see, I’m a versatile person,” he said with a chuckle.

His next venture idea arrived in 1994 when he decided to focus his energies on physiotherapy. Only three years afterwards, Racine opened his very first clinic, PhysioExtra. Today, this physiotherapist is the founder and president of an extensive rehabilitation network, currently consisting of 13 clinics in the Montreal, Laval, North Shore and South Shore regions and employing over 200 employees and consultants.

So why make the jump into physiotherapy? What pushed Racine to take the leap into health-focused entrepreneurship? He attributes the move mainly to certain gaps he saw when he entered the job market. “I always had the sense, when working for other clinics/employers, of this gap on the proactiveness side. I wanted to excel, providing outstanding treatments to patients, seeing relief,” he said. The goal was not to make money, but to focus on wellbeing. Being the visionary that he was, Racine pictured a clinic that provided both personalized treatments and proved to be a good work environment for employees.

One of the reasons Racine’s clinics have done so well is because of diversification of services. Although in the beginning PhysioExtra focused exclusively on physiotherapy services, its founder realized that diversifying services was the only way to earn a competitive edge in the market. The clinic now offers occupational therapy, osteopathy, kinesiology, massotherapy, acupuncture, psychology and much more.

Even within the field of physiotherapy, PhysioExtra has expanded its service line. Some of the most notable additions include the work rehab programs for long-term disability clients, launched in 2005. Last year, the newest program offered by the clinic, the Cardiac Rehab Program, came into effect. The program, as demonstrated by its name, is catered towards patients with cardiac-related issues and focuses on methods of prevention and further degeneration.

Trends in the healthcare industry

From what Racine can see, trends in the healthcare industry fall under two main categories. The logistics of running a health-related business are changing. The problems that patients are suffering from are also proliferating.

From a business perspective, clinics are regrouping in such a way that they monopolize a larger portion of the market. Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are expected to increase in the next couple of years. “Quebec sets itself apart from the other Canadian provinces by doing it this way and PhysioExtra keeps on being innovative by opening branches in various locations within and outside the Montreal Island,” Racine said.

On the health side of things, much has changed in the past 20 years, but what has caught the attention of Racine is the number of patients with neck and back problems as well as complications in the hand and forearm. People, Racine says, are far too attached to their phones, tablets and laptops nowadays, which puts them in a forward-slanted body position. Excessive hours spent on mobile technology in this fashion is causing all sorts of problems.

As a physiotherapist, Racine’s advice is simple. “Straighten up! Be conscious about good posture. Try to stand ‘tall’ all the time, sitting or standing, more when reading,” he says, adding that it is imperative to consult a doctor or physiotherapist at the onset of health issues. “The tiniest rattling noise from our car and we run to see a mechanic to get it fixed. However, when it comes to our health, we endure small pain months before consulting. Many times, long-term damages could have been prevented or avoided early on.”

In fact, PhysioExtra is challenging the whole community to be fit … for a good cause. Every year for the past five years, the company has been sponsoring a run in Terrebonne, Quebec to support triathletes from the area. PhysioExtra’s mascot, PHYSED, can be seen mingling amidst the 1,000 participants who attend this event.

Success and challenges

With his passion for the arts, Racine’s clinics are always esthetically pleasing to the eye. It doesn’t need to look like a “clinic”, he says. PhysioExtra’s headquarters, in particular, showcases paintings from various Quebec artists. This artistic approach is part of the company’s growth strategy. Patients like what they see when they walk through the doors. This coupled with investments towards the quality of treatments and level of services has been putting PhysioExtra’s name on the map for a few years now.

Internal restructuring has allowed the company to come out stronger than ever. The next four months will add two more branches to the PhysioExtra family, bringing with them more employment opportunities and greater accessibility for patients.

Unfortunately, one of the challenges of the industry centres on quality, according to Racine. “New therapies are fronting and some without proper training. The population is at risk of being treated without the knowledge if it is a safe practice or not,” he said, adding that at PhysioExtra, staff are continuously invested in R&D. Evidence-based medicine and new responsibilities increase the level of confidence the population gives physiotherapists and the importance of seeking health benefits provided from a physiotherapist.