A Publication of WTVP

After many years of leadership in Proctor Hospital’s Addiction and Behavioral Services Division and as vice president of Proctor Health Care’s Ancillary Services Division, Rick Zehr was named the new president of IPMR, succeeding Ric Erickson, who retired on December 31, 2011. In his time at Proctor, Zehr helped develop the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery into a nationally known provider of addiction treatment services.

Tell us a little about your background.
I was born and raised in Pontiac, Illinois. I grew up in a family business where my grandfather and father operated Zehr Hatchery & Mill, which hatched, raised and shipped millions of ready-to-lay chickens across the United States. This line of work demanded attention 24 hours a day, seven days a week and impressed upon me a work ethic that’s allowed me to become successful in healthcare. I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Eastern Illinois University in 1984 and a Master of Science in clinical psychology from Illinois State University in 1987. I live in Peoria with my wife, Jenny, who is the administrative director of Health Information and Technology at Proctor Hospital.

Describe your career path leading up to your new position at IPMR.
Following graduate school, I started my career as an addiction counselor at Proctor Hospital’s Addiction Recovery Center, and in 1989, I began my leadership career as the Addiction Recovery Center’s coordinator of outpatient services. In 1992 I assumed the Addiction Recovery Center position of executive director and welcomed additional responsibilities as vice president of addiction and behavioral services at Proctor Hospital beginning in 1998. In January of this year, I left my most recent position as vice president of ancillary services at Proctor Hospital to become president of the Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

How has your past experience prepared you for your new role?
My hospital leadership experience brought me face to face with the challenges and complexities of quality healthcare delivery, which is rooted in putting patient care first, then aligning with physicians and other healthcare providers to offer a seamless continuum of care. While at Proctor Hospital, I was also responsible for the oversight of Joint Commission standards compliance. That prepared me for the importance of meeting and exceeding the standards of IPMR’s accrediting body, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). IPMR has been accredited continuously for 45 years—the longest of any outpatient center of its kind in the U.S.

What duties does your new role encompass?
As president of IPMR, I plan, develop, implement and execute corporate-level programs while overseeing the daily operations of the organization under the direction of the board of directors. I provide leadership and knowledge relative to current and changing concepts, trends and standards in physical medicine and rehabilitation services, state and federal government regulations, standards of national accrediting commissions, the principles of continuous quality improvement, and development and implementation of IPMR’s mission, vision, strategic plan and organizational structure.
Tell us a little about the origins and history of IPMR.
IPMR is a private, nonprofit organization. Many people don’t realize this because they may only come across us at a physical therapy center or when a parent is receiving stroke care with home health. But IPMR has deep roots in the community, going back over 60 years. IPMR was initially endowed by the Forest Park Foundation as a nonprofit treatment center for polio patients, disabled veterans and elderly residents of the Forest Park Nursing Home. Since its inception in 1950, IPMR has been a leader of comprehensive medical rehabilitation services, getting people back to their daily lives by helping them overcome physical, emotional, social and vocational difficulties due to injury or disease.

Most of the services people think of today as physical rehabilitation were first offered in central Illinois by IPMR: orthopedic rehabilitation, electrodiagnostic medicine, aquatic therapy, ergonomics, breast cancer rehabilitation, balance and vestibular rehabilitation, and on and on—the list of “firsts” is a very long one. Over 30 years ago we added a Senior World adult day program—one of the first in the state of Illinois and still the only one in this region. Our early visionaries: Dr. Harold Vonachen of Caterpillar, Bill Rutherford and Dr. Robert Hart would be astonished at how far we’ve come.

Describe the services that the organization provides. How do you view its role in the community?
Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), IPMR provides comprehensive medical rehabilitation in various venues of care including: physician consults and electrodiagnostic medicine; pain management programs; comprehensive in-hospital therapy; outpatient therapy at nine locations; therapy for skilled nursing and in-home care; driving evaluation programs; balance and vestibular rehabilitation; fall prevention programs; visual rehabilitation; stuttering fluency program; wellness programs, including exercise and massage; physical and occupational therapy; speech and language therapy; psychology and return-to-work services; aquatic therapy; women’s and men’s health programs; lymphedema prevention and management; breast cancer rehabilitation; acupuncture; memory disorders clinic; and Senior World adult day services.

IPMR’s newest services are offered at the Erickson Center for Sports Therapy and focus on the prevention of athletic injuries, recovery when a sports injury does occur, and enhancement of athletic performance across all sports.

Services at IPMR are diverse and designed to assist every age group. The staff includes board certified physiatrists (physicians who specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation), physical and occupational therapists and assistants, psychologists, occupational health specialists, speech/language pathologists, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants and administrative staff. As the most comprehensive physical medicine and rehabilitation provider in the area and through its 18 locations, IPMR offers central Illinois unmatched expertise and services for all physical medicine needs.

You have spent many years working in the field of addiction treatment and recovery. To what extent does IPMR deal with those issues?
The fields of addiction medicine and physical medicine rehabilitation have much in common. Both share a philosophy based on a medical model which embraces the patient as an active participant in their treatment and ongoing recovery. Both approach pain management using non-mood-altering treatment techniques to help patients lead comfortable and productive lives. Education and behavior change for those suffering from either addiction or physical ailments can lead to remarkable life-changing experiences and recovery. In addition to our physical medicine services, IPMR’s psychotherapy services include health and behavior assessments, individual and family counseling and/or group therapy, case management, health education and support groups to assist clients to a full and satisfying recovery.

What are the implications of IPMR’s nonprofit status when it comes to fulfilling its mission?
I want to emphasize that IPMR is a mission-driven organization, not profit-driven. IPMR’s mission, which is like no other provider in this community, is its competitive advantage. Our nonprofit status allows us to work with all patients and payers to provide high-value care with exceptionally effective outcomes.

What will be the impact of healthcare reform on your organization?
Healthcare reform, as it unfolds, will require providers, healthcare delivery systems and payers to align in new ways to bring greater efficiencies, lower costs and better outcomes to the value of healthcare services. Treatment will occur across a continuum of providers that are aligned both clinically and financially so the patient has a seamless, bundled experience rather than the fragmented care often experienced today.

What is at the top of your agenda for 2012?
We experience many of the same challenges that all nonprofits endure, especially with a struggling state economy. However, we don’t want to be central Illinois’ best-kept secret! When people desire physical medicine and rehabilitation services, we want to be top of mind because we offer the most comprehensive services with the best outcomes. Our unique mission and competitive advantage is being the best value for employers and individuals seeking to improve function and quality of life. iBi