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Dynamic Chiropractic – August 12, 2011, Vol. 29, Issue 17

Small-Town Hospital With Big Ideas

By Michael Olson, DC

Bigfork Valley Hospital is a rural health care campus in northern Minnesota that consistently ranks among the top facilities in the state in the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, the national hospital patient satisfaction survey.

For instance, in the most recent survey, Bigfork Valley ranked first in Minnesota in whether patients would definitely recommend the hospital; and received patient ratings of 9 or 10 on a scale of 1-10 in explaining about medicines, in explaining about what to do during recovery at home, in pain control and in doctor-patient communication.

Recently, I was hired to provide a new service: chiropractic. Why did a small rural hospital decide to take a chance on a new product? It's in the genes. In the 75-year history of the hospital, Bigfork Valley has grown as health care needs have grown.

In the early 1900s, patients were served by dogsled and boat in this remote area. Today, they are served in a first-class facility that continues to invest in staff and equipment. The cornerstone of the first hospital in Bigfork was laid in 1938 and the doors opened in 1941. The campus now includes a 20-bed critical care hospital, diabetes center of excellence, rehab department, laboratory, imaging, retail and hospital pharmacies, specialty clinics, surgery center, emergency department and other medical support groups. There are also medical and dental clinics, and a variety of senior housing options for both independent, assisted, day and long-term care. And of course, there is the brand-new Bigfork Valley Chiropractic Clinic.

While searching for chiropractic employment opportunities, I knew I wanted to work in a multidisciplinary clinic. There was always something that struck me about being able to work with other professionals in the same building. In my opinion, the level of care a patient can receive increases when doctors are able to collaborate with each other effectively. However, never did I think I would end up in a hospital right after graduation.

I had applied at on outpatient orthopaedic clinic in Grand Rapids, Minn., about an hour south of Bigfork. However, while interviewing, they told me they had such great relationships with other chiropractors in town that they felt if they were to bring me on, they would lose some of those relationships and thus some of their business.

The orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Dan Baker, is part-owner of the clinic – and also chief of surgery at Bigfork Valley. He referred me to the hospital and helped set up an interview. While interviewing, it became very clear to me that this hospital was not cutting edge; it was bleeding edge. The vision of health care here continues to grow and expand. The hospital said it had been considering employing a chiropractor for about five years now and implementing more complementary and alternative medicine is part of its future goals.

As chiropractic is something very new to this hospital, Bigfork Valley has done everything it can to help facilitate a smooth start and easy transition for not only myself, but also for other health care practitioners. Everyone at the hospital has been very accepting and excited about the additional service; however, we are also taking the necessary precautions to avoid stepping on each other's toes.

In a hospital setting, I have a very distinct role, often less of a role perhaps, than if I were to own my own clinic. Rehabilitation is provided by the PTs, orthotics are fitted and ordered by the O&P, and supplements are sold in the pharmacy. I am responsible for providing adjustments and myofascial release. As long as everyone performs their role and does an excellent job at it, the system works amazingly well. Chiropractic can do good things alone, but when combined with other professions, especially PT, it can do great things.

To help establish the clinic and also let people find out how beneficial chiropractic can be, the internal wellness program is offering a limited number of free visits a year to participating staff. If they are satisfied with the benefits, I anticipate that word of mouth will help bring in more patients. The hospital also recently held a wellness fair for its employees, and I was featured at one of the booths. Employees who attended the fair had the chance to visit with me, learn about chiropractic wellness care, and sign up for a 15-minute screening where I performed a quick five-minute posture, ROM and muscle strength exam. For the remaining 10 minutes, the hospital wanted me to stress the importance of chiropractic wellness.

There are many more benefits I have come to realize about working in a hospital setting. Financially, I did not have to take the risk of opening my own practice – however, I am still obligated to bring in my own patients and build my practice within the hospital to generate revenue. Second, the paperwork and billing get distributed very nicely. I am responsible for the evaluation and daily SOAP notes, but all the billing and insurance claims are processed by the hospital business office. Referrals are easy and can be distributed very easily, as everyone is under one roof.

Last, but certainly not least, it has started to make me a much better doctor. I have already had the opportunity to learn so much in such a short time. I have had the chance to sit in on orthopaedic surgeries, shadow the pain specialist, observe the PTs, learn from the diabetes specialist, and so much more.


Dr. Mike Olson, a 2011 Palmer College of Chiropractic graduate, joined Bigfork Valley Hospital in May. According to Dr. Olson, he has been "blown away" by how the hospital has accepted him and chiropractic care, including providing tables and adjusting tools, training staff to handle chiropractic billing, and allocating funds for continuing education. Contact him with questions and comments via e-mail at .


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