Editor's note: This is the first in a series of stories on the businesses that will be inducted into the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame on Oct. 15 at the Blair County Convention Center.
HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Altoona continues to add to its laurels.
"We were the first rehabilitation hospital in the United States of America to hold Joint Commission disease-specific certification in stroke, brain injury and spinal injury. No one can ever take that away from us," said Scott Filler, who has been CEO of the local facility since 1998.
)Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski)
Physical therapist Nikki Imhoff helps Bob Wilk of Coalport through an agility ladder at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Altoona.
(Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski)
Occupational therapist Joleen Dignan watches Edward DiBonto of Altoona use an ergometer at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Altoona.
The hospital received a fourth Joint Commission certification in 2008 for its cardiac program and is expected to receive a fifth certification on Sept. 20 from the commission in orthopedics.
HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Altoona will be one of five businesses inducted into the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame Oct. 15 at the Blair County Convention Center.
"It is quite an honor. It is a testament to the employees who have made HealthSouth the success it has been," Filler said. "We have a really caring innovative staff that have taken patient outcomes to a higher level."
HealthSouth Altoona is a worthy recipient, Hall of Fame Committee Chairwoman Lisa Michelone of Reliance Bank said.
"Our visit to HealthSouth solidified their entry to the Business Hall of Fame. This company provides such a valuable service for our community and boasts of so many new and unique forms of rehab - one device even invented by one of their own employees," Michelone said. "Patient care is so important to them, and the patients we saw did not seem angry or in pain; they seemed to be happy to get the care and rehab needed specifically for them."
The hospital opened its doors on Jan. 6, 1986, under the ownership of National Medical Enterprises. On Jan. 1, 1994, the hospital was purchased by Birmingham, Ala.-based HealthSouth Corp.
Over the years, the hospital's workforce has grown from fewer than 100 employees to more than 370 and the number of patient beds has grown from 60 to 80, Filler said.
Not everyone in the community is familiar with the hospital.
"People don't know us until they need us. We are a physical inpatient hospital. We are the only licensed rehabilitation hospital in Blair County," Filler said. "We specialize in treatment of stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury, cardiac, orthopedics, multiple trauma and other neurological conditions."
HealthSouth has seen a tremendous amount of growth on the inpatient side - treating about 150 patients a month.
In December 2011, the hospital treated its 30,000th inpatient, "and we have added about 3,600 since then," Filler said.
Additional outpatient services such as pain management, arthritis, aquatics and wellness programs are available at locations in Altoona, Duncansville, Tyrone, Bedford, Ebensburg and Huntingdon.
HealthSouth also offers industrial and work programs such as post offer screenings, job site analysis and specialized therapy programs geared to return injured workers back to the job, Filler said.
More than 100 central Pennsylvania businesses take advantage of the programs.
In July, the hospital treated its 1 millionth outpatient. Altoona has the largest volume of outpatients out of HealthSouth's 100 hospital system.
HealthSouth Altoona is best known for its patient outcomes.
"Our outcomes are in the top 5 percent in the country; that is a very well-kept secret. We are truly blessed we not only are able to achieve but sustain - it is a credit to our staff. It is a testament to our willingness to provide the resources to our staff for continuing education and advanced certifications in the field," Filler said.
"We have staff attend up to 100 continuing education offerings. They are getting the latest technology and the latest treatment protocols. We never get complacent in our employees' resources," he said.
The hospital's nursing component separates it from others, Filler said.
"We have RN coverage 24/7, including certified rehab RNs. Over 70 percent of our nurses hold certificates in rehab, which is huge. You need two years' active experience to qualify for that," Filler said.
HealthSouth Altoona has won numerous awards over the years.
Highlights include being listed as a President's Circle winner four times in the last 10 years. The award is given to HealthSouth's top 12 hospitals for overall operational excellence.
It was the first hospital east of the Mississippi River to have its stroke program get a Certificate of Excellence in 2004 and again in 2011, Filler said.
A combination of factors has lead to the hospital's success.
"The key to our success has been the ability in spite of our successes to avoid complacency and have the vision and ability to strategically position our hospital for anticipated changes in either the market, regulations and technology to be out in front," Filler said.
"We also have such a high employee retention rate; year after year we have the lowest employee turnover in the 17-hospital northeast region. We have good people with a good work ethic - that has been a key," he said.
Filler remains optimistic about the hospital's future.
"We would like to have a sixth program certified in diabetes management because of the prevalence of diabetes in the area. We continue to evaluate our product to meet the needs of the community," Filler said. "If that leads to an expansion of beds and employees, that would be great."
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.