I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC, who has been an extraordinary visionary and passionate advocate for advancing the rehab therapy profession for more than 20 years. As the co-founder and president of WebPT, the country’s leading software platform for outpatient rehab therapy, Heidi has empowered countless providers and practice owners to achieve greatness in practice, advocate for their profession, and embrace innovation as a means of improving patient care and fueling business growth.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path as a doctor or healer?
In college, I played basketball for the University of California, Davis, and during my junior year, I suffered a significant knee injury. That’s when I was introduced to an amazing physical therapist who helped me return to the court and sparked my passion for the profession — and my decision to leave my pre-med career path behind. I knew I wanted to be able to impact others’ lives through physical therapy, so I immediately changed my major and went on to earn my master’s degree — and later a doctorate — in physical therapy.
I practiced as a PT for more than 15 years and became a top sports medicine specialist in my area, treating professional, college, and high school athletes. In 2006, I became the director of one of the largest sports medicine practices in Arizona. And it was there that the idea for WebPT, my software company, was born.
How have your personal challenges informed your career path?
Many personal challenges have ended up being opportunities to make big leaps in my personal and professional life. At the time, my basketball injury felt like a major setback, but it led me to PT. Similarly, when I was clinic director, the challenge of not being able to find a cost-effective, web-based documentation solution led me to build what would become WebPT.
Even after WebPT launched, I eventually had to face yet another challenge: transitioning away from seeing patients. In the beginning, I continued to practice PT. But eventually, I realized that patient care was simply too much to balance with motherhood and serving as an executive at a rapid-growth software company. So, I had to make some tough decisions.
While I originally entered the PT profession to help people — not run a software company — I realized that WebPT was providing me with a platform to help people on an even larger scale. I was able to help my fellow PTs grow their businesses, streamline their operations, and improve the patient experience. It was then that I decided to go all in, and I haven’t turned back since. (Although I still serve as one of our resident PTs at the office.)
While I no longer practice physical therapy in the traditional sense, I find great satisfaction in what I’m doing with WebPT, as it has empowered countless providers and practice owners to run better businesses, advance PT in general, and leverage the best technology available to improve efficiency and patient care. I still have the same desire to help and heal people, but my means of accomplishing that have changed, thanks to WebPT.
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a Doctor”
Social media and reality TV create a venue for people to share their personal stories. Do you think more transparency about your personal story can help or harm your field of work? Can you explain?
In the context of social media, you obviously have to use discretion. But at WebPT, we believe in being radically transparent; knowing our individual strengths and owning up to our weaknesses makes us a stronger team. In fact, one of our core values is “F Up, Own Up,” which keeps us honest and holds us accountable.
We’ve continued to act on this value through bloggingand social media. As a result, WebPT has been able to create a marketing engine that has helped to establish us as thought leaders and innovators within our industry, designating us as a market leader. This form of marketing has also helped shed light on what physical therapists actually do as professionals, demystifying the profession while also sharing stories, testimonials, research, and expertise to help our profession gain the notoriety it deserves.
As for my personal story and background as a PT, it has actually been a key part of WebPT’s success. It has helped shape our software’s features and functionality because I intimately understand the profession, our needs, and the ever-increasing demands being placed upon us to demonstrate value. This is a strength I bring to the table, but I’ve learned to be equally transparent about the areas where I may fall short. I work to inspire and empower students, entrepreneurs, female leaders, and other tech founders by sharing my successes and failures — something I’m able to do easily through social media, blogging, and various speaking engagements. This drive to share my knowledge and experience also served as the inspiration behind WebPT’s monthly Founder Letter blog posts, which gives me some creative freedom to write about industry-related trends and topics.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant to your life?
I’ve always loved this quote from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” When I began my career as a PT, it was to effect positive change in other people’s’ lives and continues to be the driving force behind my work at WebPT. I find that this quote epitomizes what I strive to do, day in and day out, both personally and professionally.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
This is simple. I would inspire more people with musculoskeletal pain to seek out a physical therapist as their first course of action for pain management. Unfortunately, in the current landscape, that is not the case. As I mentioned above, about 90 percent of patientswho could benefit from physical therapy services never receive them, which means they either live in pain, seek out potentially addictive painkillers, or undergo surgery. This happens despite the fact that researchhas shown that when PT — rather than traditional care routes — is the first choice to address certain injuries, the course of treatment is often shorter, the patient experiences better outcomes, and the overall cost is lower.
There is also a huge need for physical therapists in the pain-management space. And while we have traditionally branded ourselves as movement experts, there is a lot of opportunity for us to help fight the opioid epidemic. The treatment of musculoskeletal conditions — specifically, spine-related disorders — is the most expensive category of healthcare costs. It’s also the primary reason for opioid prescriptions and is associated with more than half of all “low-value” healthcare services. A recent study from Boston University found that 75 to 90 percent of patients with low back issues were less likely to have short- or long-term exposure to opioids when PT was their first line of treatment.
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