We’re all for helping physical therapists create and retain loyal customers. After all, improving patient retention is one of the absolute best ways to grow your business. All the hard work you put into branding and marketing your practice won’t go very far unless you’re able to attract your target audience, help them successfully complete their plans of care, and send them out into the world as raving fans.
I had the great pleasure of participating in the WebPT Ascend Conference in Dallas, Texas, on September 20. Ascend was a one-day educational event focused on helping PTs, OTs, and SLPs succeed in business. The conference offered two learning tracks to choose from—one tailored to starting a PT, OT, or SLP practice and the other geared toward growing an existing one. Ascend was billed as the ultimate rehab therapy business summit, and it did not disappoint.
As the healthcare landscape evolves, smart practice owners and department managers will evolve, too—ahead of the curve. As part of their evolution, some therapists are incorporating wellness services into their business models. “Wellness” is a buzzword in physical therapy circles right now. But what does the term actually mean? And how can we use wellness services to better help our clients and ensure our clinics thrive?
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) defines wellness as:“a multidimensional state of being describing the existence of positive health in an individual as exemplified by quality of life and a sense of wellbeing.” Furthermore, the APTA believes that “physical therapists are uniquely qualified to assume leadership positions in efforts to prevent injury and disability, and fully supports the positive roles that physical therapists and physical therapist assistants play in the promotion of healthy lifestyles, wellness, and injury prevention.” And that goes for physical therapists in all 50 states, whether or not the state practice act contains specific language surrounding wellness. For more information on the APTA’s policies regarding physical fitness, wellness, and health as well as the association’s position on advocacy for physical education, physical conditioning, and wellness, click here.
The Legal Stuff
However, it is always advisable to contact your state board and review your professional liability insurance (PLI) policy—perhaps with an attorney—before introducing a new wellness program. Your PLI may not cover all of your risk because most policies only apply to medical incidents that arise from performing professional services that fall within your state practice act. You can find more information on protecting yourself and your business here.
Wellness and Medicare
Offering wellness services can be a great way to teach and interact with the Medicare community—even if you don’t contract with Medicare insurance. Because physical therapy-related wellness services are not a Medicare-covered service, you can enter into a private pay arrangement with patients to provide yoga, Pilates, or strength training classes, which can improve core strength, flexibility, and general wellbeing. (Some wellness services—such as a yearly physical with a physician—are covered services, but most fitness training services are not).
Your Wellness Program
You can design your wellness program in a way that makes sense for your clinic. One option is to offer wellness services as a continuation of care for patients whom you’ve discharged from formal physical therapy. This is a nice way to transition your existing patients who want to continue to develop strength and endurance but who don’t feel comfortable attending a commercial gym. These patients are already familiar with your clinic and staff and are often happy to make the switch to being cash-paying customers. Another option is to market your wellness services—private or small group yoga, Pilates, mobility training, or performance classes—to the general public as a way to bring new clients into your practice.
If someone on your staff is already a certified yoga or Pilates instructor, you can ask him or her to lead group or one-on-one classes. If not, that’s okay. Some clinics bring in teachers to offer classes or private sessions. Either way, just make sure you choose someone with the appropriate certifications and experience working with post-rehab clients. You should feel confident that your clients are receiving the best possible instruction so they’re safely progressing toward their fitness goals.
When setting your prices for wellness services, you will need to do some homework; see what gyms, personal trainers, and yoga/Pilates instructors are charging in your area. This will give you a feel for what the market rate is for cash-based services in your community. For your own rates, I would suggest going slightly higher in price. We want to communicate the value of our services based on our advanced education and training. By setting our price point slightly higher than market value, we send the message that we are providing a unique service—one that our clients can’t receive anywhere else.
I agree with the APTA’s assessment that physical therapists are uniquely qualified to provide wellness services, specifically a safe progression of exercises to assist clients in reaching their goals. This is one way in which we can help transform society by improving the human experience—all while diversifying our offerings and thus, evolving ahead of the curve.
Does your clinic provide wellness services? If so, what services? If not, would you like to? What questions do you have about getting started? Let me know in the comments section below.
Whew! I just got back from PPS13 last night, and it may take me a month to recover. What a whirlwind! I’m sure that every attendee has a different perspective on the conference, and I can only share my own experience, but I think I can sum it up in one word: connecting. While there were some fantastic talks at PPS13, the highlight for me was seeing friends and finally meeting new people face-to-face. What an overwhelming experience to meet and talk with hundreds of other private practice owners, who have the same joys and struggles that I have on a daily basis.
As everyone knows, October is National Physical Therapy Month (NPTM). I have celebrated this month-long holiday alongside my colleagues for the past 15 years, but it wasn’t until I sat down to write this article that I really began to think about the purpose of NPTM. After doing a bit of digging, I found out that people all over the country have been celebrating NPTM in October for more than 20 years with the intent to increase awareness about the benefits of physical therapy. It is typically a time for physical therapists to speak to different groups, host complimentary screenings, and take part in fun community activities.
Today’s blog post comes from Ann Wendel, PT. Ann is the owner of PranaPT, a member of WebPT, and an active social media participant (@PranaPT). Thanks, Ann! Due to all of the recent changes in Medicare documentation and billing requirements, I have had an increase in the number of questions from other physical therapists regarding cash-based services for Medicare patients.
WebPT’s theme for the month of April focuses on protecting and bettering the planet. As Co-Founder Heidi Jannenga stated, “While we want everyone to play their part in protecting and bettering our planet, we also want any green initiatives to benefit your practice—and your patients.” Thinking about this theme, it occurred to me that the best way we can help build a better future is to cultivate relationships with our current DPT students (and undergraduate students interested in applying to physical therapy programs). The students of today will become the leaders of our profession tomorrow. What better way to benefit all people than to plant and nurture seeds in the passionate group of students currently enrolled in physical therapy programs?
I am often asked how I document and bill for visits in my cash-based practice. I laugh every time a therapist comments, “You’re so lucky; you don’t have to worry about documentation or billing because you get paid up front!” While this is a funny (and false) belief, it proves that I need to explain how I run my practice in order to assist other therapists who want to adopt some cash-based services.
In keeping with this month’s theme of marketing physical therapy as a profession, I wanted to share the three things that I believe lead to success with any endeavor. There are many different ways to market, but if you want your campaign to have impact, you need to connect, inspire, and assist.
Let’s consider the first principle: connect. Before people will listen to what you have to say, you must connect and build a relationship. These days, the Internet (and social media in particular) makes it easier than ever to reach people with your message. However, the key to success isn’t what you say, but how you say it. Messages and advertisements bombard us all day, every day. In order to survive, we have learned to tune out much of this noise.
So how do we cut through the noise to reach our audience? When we have the goal of marketing a profession, business, or product, we must command the attention of the audience we want to reach, and the best way to do this is by building relationships with our target audience. The most successful campaigns are launched through conversations. Social media is a very effective way to connect and build relationships; yet, many people forget this step and go right to direct marketing. However, if you only use social media to push your products or services, most people will tune you out. There has to be a balance.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of doing a poster presentation at the Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS) held on the campus of Harvard Law School. It was one of the most exciting conferences I have ever attended, and I would like to share a bit about it. The symposium is made possible through the work of the Ancestral Health Society. As explained on their website:
If you read my blog or follow me on Twitter (@PranaPT) you know that I have a thing for Seth Godin (@ThisIsSethsBlog). His writing is full of wisdom, shared in clear, short, relevant messages. I just finished reading his book Linchpin and was struck by his definition of the word “art.”