As a physical therapist in private practice, you are an expert at treating a wide range of patient injuries. If you’re also a clinic owner, you may be looking to expand your service offerings in order to grow your business and boost your bottom line. But with so many ways to expand, how do you know which services are right for your clinic? If you’re looking to provide treatments with low competition and substantial market opportunity, balance therapy may be the way to go.
Consider the following:
- Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults.
- 40% of the US population will experience clinical dizziness or balance difficulty in their lifetime.
- 35% of adults ages 40 or older (69 million Americans) demonstrate a form of vestibular dysfunction when tested with a postural metric.
Marketing your practice as a solution for balance and dizziness issues will bring in a significant number of motivated patients seeking your help. Word travels fast when you can help patients who have suffered extensively, and as illustrated by the statistics above, balance and dizziness patients are all around you. On that note, here are four unexpected places you can find these patients:
1. Your Existing Patient Population
Chances are, you’re already seeing patients who need help with balance. For many orthopedic rehab patients, falls or dizziness issues are at the root of their presenting injury. When therapists are trained to identify balance issues at the outset of care, they can treat these patients holistically, focusing on the cause of their episodic injury—not merely the rehabilitation of the isolated injury.
2. The Patient Populations of Your Existing Referral Sources
Primary care practitioners (PCPs) and orthopedic surgeons routinely encounter patients with balance and dizziness challenges. Often, they choose to prescribe narcotic treatments or refer patients to ear, nose, and throat specialists, because they are not aware that a physical therapist specializing in balance therapy could be the best provider for these patients. Becoming a recognized balance therapy expert in your community can dramatically increase referrals from physicians who already send patients to you.
3. Unexpected Referral Sources
When we think about balance and dizziness patients, we rarely recognize the breadth of physicians seeing these types of patients. The list is endless, which means your referral sources are, too! At the top of the list are otolaryngologists, otologists, neurotologists, neurologists, cardiologists, and endocrinologists. These doctors see multiple dizziness and balance cases weekly at their clinics, and they rarely have a place to refer patients for necessary therapy. This is an untapped opportunity for physical therapists who want to offer balance therapy as a service. Your own competition can even become a referral source, sending you the balance patients they cannot treat!
4. General Population (i.e., Direct Access Patients)
The population that suffers from imbalance and dizziness are often treated as the black sheep of the healthcare community. They are bounced around from doctor to doctor with little or no resolution of their symptoms. By offering a balance program, your clinic could attract movement disorder patients, such as those with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, stroke patients, amputee and prosthetic patients—and even patients with vestibular disease, post-concussive dizziness, mild traumatic brain injury, and other dizziness disorders. These patients seek long-term therapy services, with the average visits per case often exceeding 20.
The cost of fall-related injuries is growing exponentially, and the cost of falls alone is expected to total more than $67 billion by the end of 2020. Those who treat balance and dizziness disorders are helping to drive down that cost while bringing the desires of insurance payers, therapy providers, and patients all into alignment. Have you considered providing balance and dizziness therapy in your community? Let us know in the comment section below. And to learn more about adding these services to your clinic’s menu of offerings, check out this resource.
Chris Hincker is the Vice President of Development at FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers, where he helps private practice owners evaluate and understand the FYZICAL model as it relates to their business. Chris is passionate about keeping physical therapists in private practice and helping them navigate the system to grow their practices despite the many challenges PTs are facing today.