I love teaching. Whether it’s with my current cohort of entry-level DPT students or with patients, nothing gets me more excited to be a physical therapist than the prospect of providing education along with healing. Perhaps the most important pearl I try to impart to my students is that you don’t have to be a manual therapy guru or sports medicine celebrity to make a difference in patients’ lives. The most important thing to helping patients is the therapist’s ability to connect and form a therapeutic alliance.
This therapeutic bond determines the effectiveness of your treatment interventions and, eventually, your patient’s outcomes. However, there’s still room to improve that connection. Providers can look at enhancing the therapeutic alliance in healthcare by creating an environment built on trust, communication, and collaboration that empowers the therapeutic alliance—in short, by adopting the principles and strategies of Practice Experience Management (PXM).
Understanding the Therapeutic Alliance
The concept is not new, but the term therapeutic alliance has gained increased focus and attention over the last decade or so. Therapeutic alliance effectively describes the interaction rehab therapists have with their patients and is also used to explain how that interaction affects outcomes. It's the collaborative partnership that forms the foundation of successful therapy.
This bond is characterized by mutual trust, shared goals, and effective communication, where research indicates positive correlations with treatment adherence, patient satisfaction, and clinical outcomes in rehab therapy. I have often preached to my students that the ability of physical therapists to connect with patients—on a level most other healthcare professionals are unable to do—truly sets us apart in care delivery. Unfortunately, one of the most significant hurdles therapists face in forming strong therapeutic relationships rests on the shoulders of disjointed software programs and administrative harm. That’s where PXM offers an answer to this ongoing issue.
Understanding Practice Experience Management
PXM comes down to building stronger connections and making every touchpoint in the rehab therapy process as seamless and painless as possible for all stakeholders in a patient’s healthcare journey. A PXM platform works to foster and grow the therapeutic alliance because without it, the patient will be unable to achieve their desired outcomes.
PXM involves guiding the patient's journey through therapy, from the care they receive to the administrative processes and interpersonal interactions they experience with your clinic. It's a comprehensive approach that ensures a positive and seamless experience for the patient, right from their initial contact with the practice to the completion of their plan of care (POC).
Returning to Patient-Centered Care
With so many third-party payers and regulators placing various hurdles and outright roadblocks to care delivery, many digital services have popped up to return the patient-provider relationship to one based on healing connections rather than transactions and checkboxes. Unfortunately, many of the solutions presented today often create their own set of hiccups when it comes to care delivery—whether that’s non-integrated digital services or the clinicians’ bane of double documentation.
PXM was born from a desire to return to patient-centered care and unite digital solutions under one umbrella of unified connectivity and simplicity. By doing so, PXM ensures that the technology available to rehab therapists boosts care to be better, faster, and smarter—all important facets of patient-centered care.
Streamlining Administrative Processes
Having the right workflows and systems in a clinic can significantly reduce administrative burden and create a positive environment. PXM helps create better workflows by emphasizing convenience and communication. Digital solutions like online scheduling, digital patient intake, appointment reminders, and electronic benefits verification remove the administrative hurdles that too often are a detriment to the patient’s experience.
PXM leverages these digital solutions to give the patient a convenient care experience, allowing them to take care of those steps before they step into your clinic, and freeing up your staff to focus on taking care of them as they enter. When administrative tasks are managed seamlessly, patients can focus on their recovery, fostering a conducive environment for building the therapeutic alliance.
Enhancing Care Coordination
PXM is all about the true connectivity of systems. That means archaic practices like paper fax or documentation systems that do not communicate with other platforms are going to bog down your clinical care and be a possible roadblock to effective communication.
A PXM platform promises seamless communication from the EMR to the billing software to digital home exercise programs, and more. Take connectivity outside your clinical workflows, and PXM promises immediate communication with referral sources and other healthcare practitioners through services like Direct Secure Messaging (DSM) and digital fax. Nothing can be more frustrating or time-consuming for patients and clinicians than to have a delay in communication between providers, but PXM fixes that and places the interaction between patient and therapist center stage.
Enhancing the Therapeutic Alliance with PXM
The implementation of PXM strategies directly influences the quality of the therapeutic alliance, and subsequently improves patient outcomes in physical therapy. By fully endorsing the concept of true connectivity, the patient and clinician can become fully immersed in the therapeutic alliance and focus wholly on patient outcomes.
Trust Yields Communication
Trust naturally develops when a patient feels heard and understood and non-clinical hurdles to care are removed. PXM strategies that emphasize active listening and clear communication pave the way for trust to flourish. This trust forms the backbone of the therapeutic alliance, enabling open discussions, feedback, and the establishment of shared treatment goals.
PXM Boosts Patient Engagement and Adherence
A healthy therapeutic bond between therapist and client means the patient will be engaged in their care and compliant with the POC. PXM takes engagement to the next level by involving patients in decision-making processes with their own care plans. When patients feel empowered and actively participate in their care, adherence to the care plan is the logical next step. This active involvement strengthens the therapeutic alliance as both the patient and therapist work collaboratively to achieve their goals.
PXM Improves Patient Satisfaction and Outcomes
With all this talk about the therapeutic alliance and PXM we must not lose sight of the target: patient satisfaction and optimal outcomes. A positive patient experience, facilitated by the principles of PXM, leads to higher levels of patient satisfaction. With a patient fully engaged, adhering to the care plan, and satisfied with their care, they are all the more likely to achieve the outcomes and become advocates for your practice.
Perhaps more importantly, outcomes have long-lasting effects on a clinic beyond just a number on a functional measure report. Optimal outcomes will yield better payment rates from third-party payers, boost value-based care, and create raving fans for your practice, thereby driving new patients to your doorstep.
In today’s healthcare landscape, rehab therapists must fuse their clinical expertise with a strong therapeutic alliance for successful outcomes. Practice Experience Management is the bridge that connects these two vital components. By prioritizing patient-centered care, streamlining administrative processes, and optimizing care coordination, PXM enhances the therapeutic alliance.
This, in turn, fosters trust, communication, and engagement between the patient and the therapist, ultimately achieving a therapeutic bond that yields optimal patient satisfaction and outcomes. Embracing PXM isn’t just about managing the practice; it’s about fostering an environment where healing thrives through the power of a strong therapeutic alliance.