Luis Rivera hates the word “disruptive.” Admittedly, however, that’s exactly what he’s trying to be.
Rivera, the founder and CEO of TAHPI (Tactical Athlete Health and Performance Institute), wants to shake up a healthcare system that’s costing cities and their fire departments millions of dollars. The physical therapist believes he has the solution in his business, TAHPI.
A graduate of Marquette University, Rivera accumulated nearly a decade of consultative and physical therapy experience working for a variety of organizations – including the PGA, NBA and MLB – before returning to Milwaukee in 2009 to open his own physical therapy facility.
TAHPI was born in 2015 when Rivera was approached by the chief medical officer for Milwaukee’s fire departments, who lamented how long it took firefighters to get back to work after an injury. If Rivera could get athletes back on the field in a fraction of the time, why did it take firefighters so long to get back after an injury?
This question became the foundation for TAHPI. The company’s programs and services revolve around the idea that firefighters should be treated like athletes, especially when it comes to the prevention and treatment of workplace injuries. TAHPI’s model streamlines the communication between injured firefighters and all parties involved in their care to shorten healing time from weeks to a matter of days. The result is improved outcomes and significant cost savings.
It’s not just Milwaukee that is benefiting from this approach: Rivera said he’s been to about 50 cities in the past three years, pitching TAHPI to municipalities across the country. To date, TAHPI is working with a few major cities, including Pierce County, Wash., and Memphis, Tenn.
“My favorite part is… explaining to (city officials) what we’ve created and them being like, ‘that’s exactly what we’ve been looking for,’ ” Rivera said.
The turning point for Rivera was discovering the Wisconsin Center for Technology Commercialization’s Ideadvance Seed Fund program, which provided Rivera with advising and financial resources that were instrumental in allowing him to move forward with his idea and open TAHPI.
“TAHPI would definitely not be where it’s at now had we not won that grant, had I not learned the process,” Rivera said.
A couple of years later, Rivera continues to look for new problems to solve, creating new product lines and growing his company, which now has 11 employees. With no MBA and no background in business, the physical therapist turned entrepreneur said the process of starting his own company has been a learning experience.
“You have to get out, you have to meet people, you have to sit in the room with them and look them in the eye and ask them the questions and then pivot around those questions as they are answering them,” Rivera said, “because that’s what’s going to guide you down the path at the end of the day, is the questions.”
While you may not see TAHPI highlighted by name alongside every fire department they assist, “We want them to be the face of it, in front of the media, talking to the media and saying, ‘We saved the city a million dollars,’ ” Rivera said.
For Rivera, the ultimate reward is the impact he knows he is making on the industry. “I honestly think that we have the opportunity to change the healthcare industry forever.”