After serving five years in the Department of Orthopedics at Straub Clinic, I decided to strike off on my own and start a new practice that would fulfill my vision of how orthopedic care should be delivered.
The reasons for my decision were numerous. There were so many new programs that I wanted to initiate, but red tape and administration delays left all initiatives stalled or incomplete — frustrating to say the least. I wanted to start a clinic where patients were given access to new technology, numerous nonsurgical treatments and personalized programs right when they needed them.
Another issue during my Straub days was the high overhead that kept me limited. I knew that becoming a solo practitioner would allow me more freedom to invest in equipment and resources that could benefit patients significantly.
I was especially unhappy with scheduling, frequently put in a position to apologize to patients for appointment delays of an hour or more. This aspect, perhaps above all other reasons, reassured me that a practice like the one I envisioned was sorely needed on Oahu. A new clinic was born.
As Portner Orthopedic Rehabilitation got up and running, I spent quite a bit of time developing an effective, efficient scheduling protocol in order to ensure all appointments were kept and the days ran smoothly. I was especially selective with staff members, finding out the hard way that good people are integral to success.
When we opened our doors in 1986, I employed one secretary and worked with limited equipment, including a few exam tables, an EMG machine and a traction table. This first employee was neither organized nor a people person, so I found myself replacing her after just one month. I was a one-man show for a time, doing everything from physical exams to EMG tests, physical therapy, spinal manipulations, spinal traction, friction massage and exercise instruction. I definitely learned a lot about how to manage the many aspects of an orthopedic practice while catering to patients’ unique needs.
As business picked up and word-of-mouth referrals brought in new patients, I hired a competent secretary/office manager and a physical therapist. Soon after, I added space and an X-ray machine, but I learned to take my own X-rays and read them, which I did for several years before hiring an X-ray technician. Additional physical therapists were added, and we acquired more physical therapy space and a massage therapist.
The demand for alternative therapies grew, so I added a chiropractor and an acupuncturist. We tried out a DEXA bone scan density machine but this proved unsupportable. My physical therapy services expanded to such a great extent, at one time I had over 10 full-time physical therapists and a separate physical therapy clinic just one floor down. This clinic extension also had a “back school,” a mock apartment where patients with back pain were taught to do laundry, wash dishes, bake, vacuum, set the table and other activities. One of the first of its kind in the state, the back school offered patients empowerment through physical independence.
In the mid-90s, the clinic added radiofrequency nerve ablation, a machine that cost well over $30,000, in response to one particular patient’s needs. Since then, we’ve used the machine countless times and recently replaced it with a brand-new, far superior model. This technology has helped us treat a vast number of patients with debilitating back and neck pain.
In the beginning, when I needed to give a specific spinal injection to the patient that required Fluoroscopic X-ray control, we would use the facilities at a nearby Straub clinic, both inconvenient and inefficient. We eventually purchased our own Fluoroscopy machine to enable us to perform these procedures right in the clinic. The original machine has since been replaced twice, most recently just this past year. We were extremely excited to add the new C-arm Fluoroscopy machine, used daily to guide sophisticated spinal injections.
After about 20 years, I began a fellowship program, fulfilling a promise I made many years ago to my mentor, Dr. James Cyriax, to teach what he taught me as well as practice it. Our fellowship became very popular and to this day I still receive dozens of qualified applications to fill just one or two spaces in the program.
Just recently, I was able to open up a satellite clinic in Kaneohe with Dr. Stephen Scheper, a former Portner Orthopedic fellowship graduate. We have also added ultrasound diagnostic machines at both locations to help us better diagnose soft tissue injuries and more precisely guide our needle injections without the need for X-rays. Stay tuned to our blog, Facebook page and Twitter account (@PortnerClinic) for regular updates on new additions and clinic news.
I am extremely grateful for the amazing staff members who contribute to the success of Portner Orthopedic Rehabilitation on a daily basis and are always willing to go the extra mile for our patients. As we continue to provide multiple nonsurgical services under one roof and strive for excellence, we hope the communities of Oahu will continue to invest in us as we have invested in them. Many thanks for your support.
—Dr. Bernard Portner
Tune in to “The Moving Body” Radio Show every Saturday at 7 a.m. on KHVH–AM 830 for call-in discussions on orthopedic issues.
Not intended as medical advice. Please consult a physician for all medical issues.