Independence Day

1.15.13 Portera

We take for granted the ability to wake up, get out of bed and function on our own. When we are forced into situations where we are hospitalized, we can take for granted the care and compassion that healthcare workers provide to see us through our ailments. Portera Rehabilitation lives up to its mantra. Everyday, Portera and its owner, Raphael Denbow provide services that are the keys to “Opening Doors to Independence”. Portera is a comprehensive rehabilitative service focused on promoting functional independence and overall wellness. From infants to adults, Acute Care to Outpatient Orthopedic Rehab, the goal is provide a higher level of rehabilitative care and to work with patients to meet the goal of functional independence.

Raphael was gracious enough to talk about operating as a business owner, his motivations, next steps and why the patient has to be first at all times.

Although this is a business, the act of helping someone (rehab) is a labor love. What motivates you to stay in this business?

The simple answer is results. I am blessed to be able to see the difference I make day after day. When I can help someone walk again, return to work, or play with their kids it’s so rewarding. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.

Your focus has been on best practices. How rapidly does the best practices in this industry change? And how do you keep up?

As healthcare evolves every profession must work to keep up. When we talk about best practices, we are focused on making sure that we are efficient and effective with how we use our and the patient’s resources (time, money, energy). We want our patients to not only get well quickly, but stay well. As a company, we make sure that our staff members complete continuing education that stresses both clinical competence, but also teaches them components of wellness, nutrition and psychosocial health.

Talk about “Donate 8” and how important community service is to you.

The Donate 8 initiative is a project that we are putting together to help close the health care availability gap in under served communities. We just wanted to pose a challenge for health care providers of all professions.  We want dentists, doctors, nurses, therapists, psychiatrists, etc. to give eight (8) hours a year to an under served community hospital, clinic, workshop, school, or health fair. Community service is something that we have built in to our mission. That’s why we accepts a wide variety of insurances that others people don’t/won’t. Yes it’s less reimbursement, but everything can’t be about money.

As a medical student, your focus was on medicine and sciences. But as a business owner, what business lessons have you encountered so far?

One thing that many folks may not know is that my dad owned his own business and I worked with him from the time I was twelve until I was 24. So, the business side was there already. I had to learn the clinical side in school. One thing that I’ve learned as a small business owner is to have the “yes” attitude. People often look at their limitations and frame their business model/outlook based on limitations. My attitude is “maybe not today, but maybe next week, next month, next year”. That’s how you grow. If you say no and stop there then that’s it.

Children often have a desire to become doctors. Yet, they don’t know all of the sub-spcialties in medicine. What can parents do to expose their children to all of the possibilities in the medical field?

When I was young, my mother gave me the book “Gifted Hands” by Ben Carson as a gift. I read that thing from cover to cover. After that, I wanted to be a Pediatric Neurosurgeon. But I had one problem, I didn’t know any Neurosurgeons. Nobody could tell me how, or what it took to do that. I took the initiative and found out. When I did, I found that it was more time than I was willing to invest. In fact, it was 15 years or more. That’s not what I had in mind. Fast forward to high school. We had a program that let you shadow medical professionals. I spent weeks interning in a rehabilitation department and my interest was sparked. That’s all it took. For parents, I would say if your child has interest in something, do your best to put them in a room, on the phone or any kind of contact with that person. People love to talk about what they do and for the most part, they love to have interns or people to shadow them. Even if your child doesn’t find exactly what they want to do they may stumble upon something great by accident.

How has the health-care act (Obamacare) impacted your business?

Quite a bit. It makes all practitioners more accountable, especially with federal insurance plans like Medicare. It helps cut out a lot of abuse and waste in the system. But it also has proposals that reward practitioners for good health care outcomes. In a way, it makes it easier for a small company like Portera to exist. We can have more personal treatments and still maintain the bottom line. More importantly, it creates greater access to care which lines up with our company’s mission.

People skills seems to be lost in some instances in the medical field. How do you motivate your staff to focus on people skills?

That’s a hot button issue for me. When I went to schoo,l they taught us to always say “patient” first. For instance we were instructed to say “Patient with Cancer” instead of “Cancer patient”. We were taught that because whenever you do anything long enough you can often lose the human aspect of what you are doing. Our patients are people first.

So whenever I hire anyon,e “fit” is always important. If I hire a new therapist, I will actually ask the patients what they think of them. The same with my support staff. I want everyone here to operate with that mindset because health care is an intimate thing. I always want my clients/patients to feel comfortable and to trust us. Once that happens, there can be a free exchange of information and we can work together to create the best outcomes. So to answer your question it’s not really motivation, it’s more of creating a work culture. Once that’s established, things are much smoother.

Where do you see Portera five (5) years from now?

Well, I don’t want to tell too much, but we will be opening a second location this year. I’d like to have a third and then….who knows? A bigger integrated venture. Stay tuned.

What’s your favorite quote that you live by?

“Life owes you nothing but opportunity”. My dad used to always say that. I live by that. When you look at people who are successful today, it was always them taking advantage of opportunities that others either didn’t see or weren’t willing to explore. That’s the difference.


Raphael J. Denbow, PT (Owner and CEO

Portera Rehabilitation, LLC