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8 Community Engagement Ideas to Attract New Patients to Your Clinic

Your local community has a wealth of resources for you to use if you are looking to attract new therapy patients to your clinic.

Ryan Giebel
5 min read
April 25, 2023
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The last few years have seen exponential growth in the number of physical therapy (PT) practices opening, and a growing number of patients seeking PT services directly. As seen in WebPT and Clinicient’s PT Patient Experience Report, “44% of patients are choosing clinics without a doctor’s recommendation, and 89% use other factors, such as social proof (e.g., reviews) and schedule flexibility when deciding where to seek care.” With the physical therapy industry projected to grow 6.2% annually by 2025, you may be wondering how best to capture this growth and attract new patients to your clinic. That’s why we’ve put together this list of ideas that will help you engage your local community and have some fun doing it. Let’s dive in!

1. Community events: A wide net for patient outreach.

Perhaps no outreach initiative is more top-of-mind than community events like health fairs, holiday festivals, chamber of commerce expositions, farmer’s markets, or craft shows. 

You can see where each event offers an opportunity for rehab therapists to connect with potential patients: 

  • Health fairs: These regular events can span from large convention centers to local senior centers offering you a chance to meet prospective patients who are actively looking for solutions face-to-face.
  • Holiday festivals: I think most would agree that Americans love their holidays. And how many times have you attended a holiday festival hosted by local businesses? Don’t miss out on this opportunity to network with future patients and enjoy the festivities.
  • Chamber of Commerce business expos: Oftentimes, chambers will host events for local businesses to offer prospective customers (or in your case, patients) the convenience of one-stop shopping. Use this as a chance to show patients what you can offer.
  • Farmer’s markets and craft shows: This may be a bit of a stretch, but you would be surprised at the number of wellness services that have injected themselves into these events, so don’t be late to this party.

What if you find your community devoid of any events? Well, host your own health fair and use the partnerships garnered from your current efforts to show your neighbors that your clinic represents the community. If this sounds like you, check out our quick guide on community event hosting.

2. Workshops: A bullseye for niche markets.

Community events are great for hitting a broad target of diverse populations, but to focus on a specific population look to host a workshop at your clinic. Niche PT markets, like pelvic health, running, and pediatrics are just a few examples of workshop-eligible focuses that will attract new patients to your clinic.

Do you have a specialty or a certification? If so, then you have the expertise that patients want. Use this to your advantage to provide free education to patients while simultaneously building rapport that you’re the therapist they need when something needs fixing or maybe just a little tweaking. But your workshops don’t necessarily have to be at your clinic. Bringing something like a fall screening and prevention workshop to your local senior center is a great way to leave a lasting impression on future patients that you’re the clinic for them.

3. Partnerships: An untapped resource within your community.

Speaking of your local chamber of commerce, they probably have a decent idea of other businesses in your community that may be of interest in partnering with you. (We can think of at least six different partnerships worth investigating.) So, try partnering with local gyms, spas, or educational institutions that will offer access to new patients with a penchant for health and wellness—a win-win when you are looking for patients that are outcome-oriented.

What about taking the headache out of dealing with insurance payments and regulations for local businesses? The growing trends in population health make direct-to-employer referrals a viable option for many PT providers. By cutting out the middleman, employers are apt to pay PT practices upfront based on your value and the return on investment for employers.

4. Health screenings: A marketing tool for all populations.

Public health access remains an ongoing challenge for many communities, and patients are often eager to take advantage of any free health service that can save them money—and a trip to the hospital. By providing free health screening services like blood pressure checks, balance assessments, or orthopedic wellness checks, you can connect with potential patients and keep your practice foremost should they need rehab services down the road. 

These health screenings are likely to cater to an older population, but young athletes and sports medicine patients can benefit from health screenings as well. Partnering with a local high school or providing your own sports physicals and sports injury prevention screenings can bring in athletes of all ages as new patients.

5. Physician referrals: A perennial patient pipeline.

Although direct-to-patient marketing is having a bit of a moment these last few years, physician referral will always play a large role in attracting new patients to your clinic. But don't narrow your outreach to just one or two regular physicians; instead, keep engaging with surrounding doctors and keep your name and practice top of mind when they are looking for the best patient-centric PT to refer their patients to. 

You can level up your partnership game by looking to other healthcare professionals as well. Partnerships with local urgent care centers, specialty practices, and wellness centers create a two-way street for patient referrals to both parties—and a clear win-win for both parties. For example, physical therapy has shown a great benefit for patients dealing with mental health issues—an area of health care sorely in need of further assistance.

6. Volunteerism: A win-win for you and your community.

What better way to broadcast your presence and attract new patients to your clinic than through volunteering at fitness challenges (e.g., running events, tough mudders, etc.)? By providing a recovery space post-race or working the medical tent of a large sporting event, you can get some good volunteer karma and market yourself in the process. One great example is Rehab 2 Perform's recovery trailer which can post up at local events and serve as a recovery space for patients to mingle and try out some of the hottest rehab items. With this ingenious mobile marketing tool, Rehab 2 Perform has created a service that yields pipelines beyond just patient referrals.

Another standout practice in the volunteer game has been Dynamix Physical Therapy, whose efforts in community involvement played a large role in boosting referrals. Dynamix has also been adept at leveraging its community outreach events on social media, showing prospective patients—and future employees—that they are invested in the community and culture.

7. Social media: A medium for engaging patients anywhere, anytime.

What if you can’t make it out of the clinic to local events—or can’t afford to participate in some of these outreach opportunities? Well, luckily the exponential growth of digital media has afforded engagement between patients and PT to occur anywhere, anytime, anyway.  

Social media reigns supreme when it comes to digitally engaging patients with your brand. With some savvy tips for using the right channels and targeting a specific audience, you can hone in and connect with the local community in a matter of a few clicks and swipes. And with this helpful guide to boosting your online visibility, you can unlock all the necessary steps to attract new patients to your clinic in no time. 

8. Educational content: A tool to leverage your expertise.

Creating Instagram Reels and hashtags for users may not be for everyone, but engaging with current, past, and potential patients through a digital medium needs to be embraced by every clinic in some manner. Creating educational content in the form of blog posts, downloadable guides, linked material from your website, or posted videos, reaches patients online and begins to sell the value you provide to them beyond just a brick-and-mortar clinic.

In need of some inspiration? Check out Dynamix Physical Therapy’s website. Right at the top of the home page, readers are met with an engaging video, along with clear links and drop-down options for further navigation. Follow some of these links, and you will find educational material lending to Dynamix’s expertise and videos of some of their niche offerings—like Sports Outreach. If you’re feeling like your website needs some TLC, don’t worry; WebPT has you covered with this downloadable guide.

Let’s face it, most clinicians don’t get into physical therapy with a desire to be the “MadMen" of rehab marketing—but that doesn't mean your marketing efforts can’t be fun, and geared toward highlighting your PT prowess. New patients are actively looking to be engaged and shown why you are the clinic for them. So, get ready to meet them in person and online by employing these strategies to keep a fresh stream of new referrals flowing.


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