When caring for a patient recovering from traumatic brain injury, patient-centeredness and compassion is the key. At the Rehabilitation Institute of Washington, PLLC—a leading provider of specialized traumatic brain injury (TBI) treatment—the team of clinicians and specialists strive to understand the patient’s experience of TBI, their journeys and the biological, psychological and social factors that are involved in shaping their experience. The team works tirelessly to create a personalized treatment plan to help patients regain their independence and improve their quality of life.
Recovery is progress that takes time. Thus, at RIW, not only are the patients supported in their recovery journeys through the latest evidence-based therapies and cutting-edge technologies, but their pain, frustration and disappointment are also acknowledged in a way that they feel heard and experience a sense of hope.
Through its commitment to innovation, patient-centered care and excellence in clinical practice, RIW has earned a reputation as a premier provider of TBI rehabilitation services in the region, improving the lives of countless patients and their families.
In an interview with Insights Care, Heather Kroll, MD, talks about RIW’s commitment to helping patients recover from traumatic brain injuries and improve their quality of life. She emphasizes its focus on providing patients with the tools and resources they need to regain their independence while “transforming lives” which speaks to the profound impact that RIW’s work can have on patients and their families.
Following are the excerpts from the interview:
Kindly, brief us about your company and its inception
Rehabilitation Institute of Washington PLLC specializes in the comprehensive rehabilitation of injured workers with traumatic brain injuries, post-concussion syndrome and chronic pain from musculoskeletal or neurological injuries. The Institute was founded in 2005 when a core group of providers left a large medical center in Seattle after our multidisciplinary program was discontinued. We loved helping those with disabilities return to active and productive lives and community stakeholders valued the care we provided.
Three months after leaving the medical center, we opened the Institute and were immediately busy. Since then we have grown, expanded services, and moved to a larger facility.
Please tell us about yourself and your professional journey so far.
Initially, I brought a love of movement (dance) and science together into a physical therapy career. After eight years as a physical therapist treating adults and children with neurological injuries, I entered medical school, choosing physiatry to continue helping people improve their function and their lives. (After a going away party from my physical therapy job, my fellow therapists talked about how I would build “Heather’s House of Health”). After completing medical school and Residency in Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, I became an attending physician in Rehabilitation Medicine at UW and another medical center working in multidisciplinary pain clinics.
While I had not taken the “Heather’s House of Health” idea seriously, an opportunity arose when I and Dr. James Moore partnered to start the Rehabilitation Institute of Washington, PLLC. Our goal was to form a free-standing rehabilitation center providing multidisciplinary care for people with disabilities.
Over the last nearly 20 years, as the organization grew, I have had the privilege to work with and learn from, an amazing team of professionals to provide comprehensive care for people with concussions, more serious brain injuries, long COVID-19, musculoskeletal injuries, and chronic pain. I have been particularly pleased to have been able to explore ways of educating each patient about their health, their body and their brain to empower them to make meaningful changes in their lives.
What are the core values that the organization stands by? What is its mission and vision statement?
We are dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered, and cost-effective care of the highest quality. We offer comprehensive interdisciplinary treatment programs for those with complex disabilities but also strive to provide less intensive, focused care when that is sufficient to resolve a problem.
At RIW, we pledge to provide the highest quality rehabilitation to assist patients to maximize function in all areas of life; physical, emotional, occupational, recreational and social, and to provide unparalleled customer service to gain the respect and trust of our patients, referral sources and payers of services.
How is your company incorporating advancing technology in providing the Concussion and TBI treatment to further customer reach as well as chart its growth upwards?
We use telehealth services to improve accessibility and generalization of rehabilitation into the home environment. We provide practice with tools to support cognition including phone apps, calendars, alarms, screen trackers, dictation tools, and notetaking devices like smart pens. Accessibility features are also used to improve access to these tools.
Computerized cognitive activities like Attention Process Training III are also used to support metacognitive awareness. These tools provide practice opportunities when engaged in metacognitive strategy training before transitioning the strategies to more complex functional activities. ImPACT computerized cognitive testing will be used in concussion screening.
What are the key products and services of the company and how is it impacting the demographic concerned?
The unique service we provide is comprehensive interdisciplinary rehabilitation. Under one roof we provide integrated, collaborative care from physicians, neuropsychologists, speech-language pathologists, physical and occupational therapists, and vocational rehabilitation counselors.
Current standards for cognitive rehabilitation support metacognitive strategy implementation focused on functional tasks. Collaboratively defined goals and treatment plans specific to each individual are developed. Massed practice of specific skills allows meaningful reintegration into the community.
What, according to you, are the challenges faced in supplying specialized services in the industry you are serving? How is the company, with your bale guidance, turning them into opportunities?
One challenge is education. Many misconceptions about TBI, particularly mTBI/concussion, exist, even within the medical community. Patients may not understand their recovery process or may get conflicting messages about recommendations for recovery. To support community education, RIW has partnered with community outreach programs like BIAWA to support community education. Additionally, RIW trains students from local universities across disciplines to improve their understanding of TBI.
Another challenge is reimbursement. Stakeholders may not understand the benefits of intensive multidisciplinary care when faced with the cost outline. To improve access to services to reduce disability, RIW is developing acute and subacute concussion programs to provide an abbreviated form of the expert services provided by the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program.
What are the future goals of your company and how has it envisioned to scale its operations and reach in 2023 and beyond?
We want to make our services available to more individuals. Because funding for comprehensive rehabilitation is not always available, we are developing more focused treatments to provide help for those with persistent symptoms or disabilities.
Give us a few testimonials from your clients or customers, and awards or recognition that accurately highlight your company’s position in the market.
I have been greatly blessed and humbled by the way the RIW team goes to great lengths to create an environment for healing. To be witnessed and guided through such an integrative program along with others who are also in recovery is an experience I won’t soon forget. I’m taking the tools and strategies I learned here into the rest of my life.”
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