Functional Pathways, LLC: Easing the Burden of Rehab

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Dan-Knorr-thumbIn many ways, Dan Knorr, president and co-founder of Functional Pathways, LLC, is an example of good, old-fashioned American entrepreneurship.

Knorr started his career as a physical therapist, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh and moving to Knoxville, Tenn., in the mid-1980s, where he worked in what he describes as “a really intense rehab environment” at Patricia Neal Rehab Hospital.

He then took a job that was considerably more rural than Knoxville, in Scott County, Tenn., where he was the only physical therapist in the county. His services were, therefore, in high demand, leading him to start his own company.

However, he soon found himself unable to juggle the numerous requests coming in from home-health agencies and nursing homes and decided to hire other therapists.

Eventually, he sold the company in the early 1990s, figuring his career in physical therapy was effectively retired.

But the connections he made, especially in long-term care, continued to request his services, and by 1995, he had co-founded Functional Pathways, LLC, whose mission is to bring rehabilitation services to long-term care facilities.

In its nearly two decades of existence, Functional Pathways has grown to include more than 130 facilities across 16 states with 2,500 therapists in its employ.

Functional Pathways provides its services exclusively to long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes and Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC), that outsource their rehabilitation departments to it.

Making its clients the best rehab providers

“Most organizations,” Knorr said, “are focused on attaining solid clinical and financial outcomes. However, running a rehab department is usually a headache.”

By outsourcing the department to Functional Pathways, long-term care facilities find a partner  that provides all the rehab services they need.

“A manager is incorporated into each facility and handles all of the documentation, the billing software, program development, compliance, and support marketing of the department,” Knorr said.

The long-term care facility still handles the billing of patients and its payer sources, while Functional Pathways is reimbursed based on the volume of work it does.

“I think one of the strengths that we had initially was that our growth was based on relationships,” he said. “I would go in and talk to customers and find out what their needs were, making sure that they were comfortable. From that, a relationship was developed. We really grew kind of as a family company.”

Functional Pathways has had to change its growth strategy over the years, he continued, and now, its growth is based on the services the company offers customers, simply because long-term rehab is a competitive niche.

“Our main competitors are some of the very large nursing-home companies that have their own rehab company,” Knorr said.

Three factors that set them apart

Knorr believes Functional Pathways differs from its competitors in three ways.

First, its values are taken seriously by the company’s leadership.

“Every employee must know them,” Knorr said, “and each department must demonstrate on a weekly basis how they’re incorporating those values into the care they’re providing.”

These core values are: Relationships, Responsibility, Self-Improvement, Innovation, Commitment, and Passion.

Second, it takes its promise to its customers seriously. Referred to as the Partnership Promise,   the organization promises to provide excellence in rehab achieved by “Elite People who give Elite Care and produce Elite Results.”

Through this promise, Functional Pathways ensures that excellence in rehabilitation will be achieved throughout the organization.

Finally, Functional Pathways provides value-added services that distinguish it within the rehab industry.

For example, it recently released a new secure web-based product, RightTrack, to its customers. RightTrack allows family members to track the patient’s progress.

Whenever a family member admits someone into one of the facilities for rehab, their email address is requested, through which they receive automatic email updates on the patient on a regular basis. They can also log into a portal and see a graph of all the different outcomes that are being tracked for the resident and see how the resident is progressing.

RightTrack can be accessed by the facilities and the referring physician, and it can run multiple outcome reports based on differing criteria. It can also run outcomes for specific patients and doctors and compare outcomes from the referring hospitals.

“Not only does the family have these updates available,” Knorr said, “but facilities can use that information to market their services and show specifically the outcomes that they’re getting for the patients that have been receiving rehab in the facility.”

“No one has anything even similar in the industry,” he added.

Battling compliance standards

“Health-care reform hasn’t really had a huge impact on Functional Pathways,” Knorr said. “It’s compliance that challenges our mission. The compliance side of it is huge for us. A couple of years ago the nursing-home industry became the No. 1 most-regulated industry even surpassing nuclear power for regulations. That’s more of an issue.”

It’s difficult keeping track of 2,500 therapists, he added. “We spend hundreds of hours making sure our therapists understand the rules and regulations and are adhering to those standards.”

Regardless of these challenges, Functional Pathways continues to grow at a rate of 15 to 20 percent annually. Knorr wants to continue on that growth track, saying his goal is to become the No. 1 rehab provider in the industry for rehab services.

“That’s our ultimate goal. That’s what we are moving towards,” he said. “Excellence in rehab is what we do. We’re not like the larger nursing-home companies that own their own rehab company. Our complete focus is partnering with our clients to become the best rehab provider in the area. That’s our goal.”

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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