From recipes and home renovations to beauty treatments and craft projects, the Internet is full of DIYs—including at-home pain relief treatments. YouTube channels offer videos that promise to fix back pain, while TikTokers tout their knee exercises as a cure-all for knee pain. The problem is that these videos fall short of the care that patients need to treat their musculoskeletal ailments—so why the heck do they keep going back to them?
Well, put simply: it’s easy, it’s free, and it’s available 24/7. Patients in pain are eager for a quick fix, and a self-diagnosis from Dr. Google often seems like the easiest route. However, as most healthcare professionals know, self-diagnosis rarely works for alleviating the root cause of pain, and pain relief tips from the Internet may cause more harm than good.
Below, we’ll consider some ways that PTs can combat this growing problem to make sure that their patients receive the best treatment possible.
Demonstrate PT’s Value
There’s no doubt that receiving physical therapy is much more effective than watching videos on the Internet, but we all know it will take some work to fix PT’s brand problem. Physical therapy isn’t just about pain management; it’s also about alliance, trust, and validation—which the Internet just can’t provide.
There’s one area where physical therapy wins over the Internet every single time: assessment. When PTs conduct a brief assessment on every visit, patients understand they’re getting customized treatment for their individual needs. When a patient comes in with a nagging issue, an expert assessment often serves as a lightbulb moment for an otherwise frustrated patient. It can also quickly build trust in a therapist’s skill and solidify a patient’s commitment to PT.
Use education to help patients prioritize PT over cookie-cutter advice from the Internet. When therapists openly share knowledge and engage patients in the recovery process, patients feel empowered and are more likely to stick with their PT program. It’s true—not every patient is fully engaged in the process, but it’s still important to educate them on their treatment plan, progress, and goals.
Collaborative goal setting is a surefire way to help patients see the value of PT. When therapists align with patients to set goals and then regularly check in on their progress, it builds trust and connection. Since recovery looks different for everyone and it’s not always linear, patients will truly appreciate any additional personalized support they receive along the way. Demonstrate the value of PT by cheerleading your patients and coaching them through the rough patches.
Reduce Barriers to Treatment
Patients may be drawn to the advice from the Internet because it’s so accessible. To remedy this, PTs need to examine potential barriers that are preventing patients from accessing care—and look for ways to reduce or eliminate them.
For example, check out your online presence and make sure that it’s easy for patients to both find and contact your office. Consider adding an online scheduler to accommodate patients who are accustomed to organizing their life digitally.
Once patients have found your practice, it’s important that they don’t run into any roadblocks during their appointment-making process. Do you have long wait times or unnecessary requirements for referrals? Do you offer evening or weekend appointments? Identifying possible hiccups in the patient experience can make a huge difference in drawing patients in—and away from the Internet.
Telehealth also plays an important role in promoting accessibility throughout the entire patient journey. Whether it’s because of mobility issues, scheduling complications, or long commutes, some patients favor telehealth appointments. Without a telehealth option, these patients may simply skip PT altogether. Use home exercise programs and telehealth visits to maintain engagement and keep them on track with their course of treatment.
Contribute to the Conversation
YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram can still be great ways to engage with current and prospective patients. Contribute to the narrative by publishing accurate, helpful information—including the importance of proper assessment and customized treatment plans.
PTs can leverage social media, blogs, and even podcasts as tools to provide accurate resources and ways for patients to reach out if they have any questions. For example, Dr. Josh Funk and his team at Rehab 2 Perform regularly share expert advice via Instagram and TikTok to engage with patients. Dr. Funk shares how to perform exercises correctly to prevent injury rather than sharing the aforementioned “cure-alls.” Establishing an online presence can help PTs provide patients with the information they need—and help them steer clear of misinformation.
Ensuring your patients have an accessible, customized, and engaging experience from start to finish will get them offline and into the office. If you have any thoughts or insights on helping patients avoid harmful tips from the Internet, share them with us in the comment section below!