Widely credited as instrumental in the inclusion of outpatient physical therapists in Medicare Part B payment, Clement "Clem" Eischen, PT, has died. He was 93.
Born on Christmas Eve in Adams County, Nebraska, In 1926, Eischen and his family moved to Vancouver, Washington, when he was 17. After high school, he attended Washington State University, where he was an All-American in track. In 1948, Eischen competed in the London Olympic Games; he returned to the Olympic Games as a member of the sports medicine staff for the 1996 Atlanta games.
After earning his physical therapy degree from Stanford, Eischen pursued private physical therapist practice, eventually establishing both Lloyd Center Physical Therapy and SportsCare Physical Therapy.
In addition to being a passionate advocate for private practitioners, Eischen was also an inventor: He developed the Pron Pillo, a device still used to help make patients more comfortable on flat-top treatment tables.
In the mid-1960s, Eischen, along with Dode Jackson, PT — both members of the APTA Private Practice Section — spearheaded advocacy that resulted in outpatient PTs being included among providers qualified to receive payment under Medicare Part B. Eischen led efforts to raise funds for the needed lobbying efforts, helped to develop the advocacy strategy, and testified before Congress to help achieve one of the profession's most significant wins.
In remarks made during his acceptance of the APTA Private Practice Section's Robert Dicus Award in 1985, Eischen looked back on those days. Citing a passage from "In Search of Excellence, " Eischen likened the advocacy work around Medicare as akin to what the book's authors describe as "skunk works" — corporate jargon for allowing creative employees the latitude to bend or ignore organizational rules in hopes that their work will yield exceptional results.
"I look up on our section as a 'skunk works' of sorts," Eischen said. "The early legislative activities undertaken by myself, [APTA California Chapter executive director, and later, APTA Executive Director Royce] Noland, and others to effect the Medicare arrangements resembles a skunk-works operation. Our activities did not fit into the framework of the parent organization, but it was a productive way to work and we obtained results."
In addition to his work with the APTA Private Practice Section, where he served as chair from 1970 to 1972, Eischen also was served as chair of the APTA Nominating Committee in the late 1970s, and on the APTA Board of Directors from 1983 to 1986. He also served on the Board of Trustees for the APTA Congressional Action Committee and was a founding member of the APTA Sports Section (now the American Academy of Sports Physical Therapy), where he served as secretary in 1974.
An online guestbook is available for anyone wishing to share their memories and thoughts on Eischen's life and contributions to the profession.