Healthcare has become the fastest growing and largest employment sector, and physical therapy is one of the specialities leading this growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, PTs, PTAs and PT aides are all in the top 10 fastest growing healthcare professions, with 10-year projected growth rates of over 30 percent. What’s more, all 50 states and the District of Columbia now allow patients to seek some level of treatment from a licensed PT without a prescription or referral, and 18 states allow unrestricted direct access.
For PT providers, this growth means competition — but it also presents opportunity. Patients can pick and choose their PTs, and that means the providers who best meet their needs and desires will emerge on top. Clinics looking to round up new business can do six things to attract patients.
1. Patient-Centered Care
Treat the patient, not the disease. Most PTs learn this philosophy in school, but how well are you applying it in your clinic? Your therapists may be well-versed in evidence-based techniques, but all the research in the world won’t tell you why a patient has come to see you or what they want to get out of therapy. Patient-reported outcome measures may be much more important than process measures, since they assess the ways therapy actually affected the patient’s life in the long run.
2. Competitive Pricing
Physical therapists deliver an average of 3.4 weighted procedures during a visit, and the average Medicare allowable for services is between $26 and $30, bringing an average, covered visit to a cost of about $100. But plenty of patients won’t be using insurance to cover their visit, and direct access has created a scenario where they’re shopping based on price as well as quality. Stand out from your competition with reasonable rates and a willingness to negotiate prices based on different circumstances.
As of June 2016, over 20,000 PTs were certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties as clinical specialists in one of these categories:
Cardiovascular and pulmonary
The APTA also offers continuing education resources for 18 special-interest sections, including hand rehabilitation, home health and oncology. While a specialization isn’t always required to treat patients with a specific condition, specialized therapists will be able to treat a broader spectrum of patients, and they can certainly make your clinic more marketable.
4. Innovative Therapies
Likewise, patients are coming to expect innovative therapies that competing professions may be able to use, such as light therapy. Some of these therapies, such as dry needling, active release and therapeutic taping, require additional certifications. Athletes and laypeople alike have popularized these methods, and their required certifications may be well worth the investment — particularly if you’re working with an active population.
5. Innovative Equipment
A qualified therapist may be able to accomplish a great deal with a plinth, some weights and few other basic tools. However, today’s patients want to see the latest and greatest in healthcare technology. And with the right rehab equipment, you’ll likely be able to achieve even better outcomes. Depending on your patient population and budget, you may want to consider investing in a few of the following tools:
Gait and stroke assessment tools
Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) units
Upright walking exoskeletons
6. Digital Engagement
Research has shown that healthcare consumers want a great deal of digital engagement — far more now than just two years ago. Roughly half of U.S. consumers are accessing their own electronic health records through the web, the use of apps and wearables has nearly doubled, and more than three-quarters of the population wears or would be willing to wear technology that tracks their lifestyle, vital signs or both. Your patients will want to be involved in their own care, and they’ll expect easy access to their PT records, online home exercise programs and perhaps even proprietary apps.
Online reviews have also become common in the healthcare field. Ninety percent of patients are influenced in their decision to make an appointment by what they read on review sites, yet only 13 percent of small-business owners approach their customers about posting reviews. People are more likely to post about negative experiences than positive ones, so you may need to incentivize your current patients to discuss their great outcomes on social media and review sites.
Above all, remember patient expectations are changing fast. The most successful physical therapy practices tomorrow will be those that begin planning today.