Written policies and procedures are standard practice in any business—and they’re absolutely crucial for businesses in health care. After all, they’re important an important means of legal and financial protection. Plus, it’s imperative that your patient-consumers know what to expect from you—and what you expect from them—from the get-go. And the same goes for your employees. The best way to accomplish all that is to put everything in writing. With that in mind, here are four written policies your rehab therapy practice absolutely must have:

Speech-Language Pathologist Salary Guide - Regular BannerSpeech-Language Pathologist Salary Guide - Small Banner

1. Patient Payment Policy

In the current healthcare ecosystem, patients are footing a significantly larger portion of their healthcare costs than ever before. As a result, patient payments are making up a larger piece of each clinic’s revenue pie. Thus, it only makes sense to ensure your patient policy clearly communicates the patient’s responsibility to pay at the point of service—as well as how your staff will go about collecting payments, verifying demographic and insurance information, processing claims, and handling past-due accounts (i.e., collections). As WebPT President Heidi Jannenga suggested here, “make sure you cover everything [in your policy], including how the front desk will determine fees, what the process for patient acknowledgement is, and the ways you’ll collect payment.” According to Kylie McKee—the author of this post—if you sell equipment or supplies, such as cold packs, tape, or foam pillows, you’ll surely want to include a refund policy, just in case a patient isn’t completely satisfied with his or her purchase.

Prepare patients to pay at the time of service.

In terms of communicating the policy to patients, you may want to establish a process for sending the patient payment policy to patients before their first visit, so you have time to follow up to ensure they understand it as well as answer any questions they may have. (To see a sample patient payment policy, check out this resource.) And be sure to set aside time to review the policy with your employees, too. After all, it’ll be imperative that they’re willing and able to enforce the policy once it’s in place—and that may require having difficult financial conversations with patients.

2. Cancellation/No-Show Policy

Cancellations and no-shows are a pain—and they can do serious damage to a clinic’s bottom line, especially if you’re unable to fill those spontaneous openings. To minimize patient cancellations and no-shows in your practice, develop and enforce a policy that covers how you’ll handle patients who bail on their scheduled appointments. In it, be sure to provide some context about why the policy is in place (i.e., explain how missed appointments negatively impact your clinic and other patients). That way, patients are more apt to prioritize attendance. As I wrote here, “It’s not enough to just set rules. Instead, make sure your patients understand the reasoning behind your policy and you’ll immediately increase their compliance.” That being said, “avoid language that is critical, dramatic, or punitive. Rather, be polite and appeal to your patients’ empathetic sides. Most will understand and respect you more for your honesty.”

Set rules—and consequences—to ensure your patients prioritize appointments.

Now, in terms of the rules to set, that’s totally up to you. As we explained here, “every clinic is different; there’s no single ‘right’ way to structure a cancellation/no-show policy.” However, Jannenga happens to be a big supporter of establishing a cancellation/no-show fee: “When she was a clinic director, she implemented a $25 fee for patients who no-showed or cancelled without providing adequate notice. While she didn’t always charge patients the fee, she had it as an option for patients who chronically missed appointments.” And most of her patients understood the need for the fee, “especially because she and her team always clearly communicated attendance expectations and repercussions upfront,” as well as the “reasoning behind the fee (i.e., we hold your appointment time for you, and if you do not provide us with enough cancellation notice, we can’t fill that spot with another patient).”

3. Employee Handbook

According to Nathan Christensen, the author of this Fast Company article, your employee handbook serves as “the road map for how to operate within your company—an introduction to your culture and a guide that your employees interact with on a regular basis.” It’s usually one of the first documents your employees receive during onboarding, which means it sets the tone for their experience with your company from the beginning. With that in mind, it’s important to craft this document in such a way that your employees actually want to engage with it. In addition to naming it something other than “employee handbook,” Christensen recommends starting with your mission—and then connecting each policy and procedure to your company’s values. “For instance, your dress code policy can articulate the image your company seeks to present internally and to clients,” he wrote. “Your job vacancy or performance evaluation policy can explain your company’s commitment to developing employees and promoting from within. And your benefits policy can describe your company’s view on work/life balance.”

Make a great first impression with new employees.

According to Christensen, the bulk of most handbooks “is filled with the expectations you have for your employees and how they are expected to invest in your company.” Instead, he recommends “turn[ing] your handbook into a dialogue by telling your employees what they can expect from you, and how you plan to invest in them.” In other words, be sure to include the benefits you provide to employees upfront and center—not buried “deep in your table of contents.”

4. Social Media Policy

With more patients looking to connect with their healthcare providers online, social media can be an important marketing tool for rehab therapists. However, it’s crucial that you outline the exact ways employees are to manage your social media channels and interact with patients—in alignment with your brand, of course. Otherwise, you could risk alienating patients and other providers as well as damaging your reputation. As WebPT’s former social media manager explained in this post, “your employees most likely love your brand and would welcome the opportunity to make you look good if you take some pressure off by providing training, establishing guidelines, and identifying the appropriate channels for engaging.” Now, this policy can be as short or as long as it needs to be in order to get your point across. Apparently, Mayo Clinic’s policy is 12 words: “Don’t Lie; Don’t Pry; Don’t Cheat, Can’t Delete; Don’t Steal; Don’t Reveal.” Pretty straightforward.

Keep your social media channels professional and friendly.

In addition to implementing a general social media policy for your staff, you may also want to establish—and publish—guidelines for how your community can interact with you and each other on your pages, including what is acceptable to post and what isn’t. For example, WebPT does not allow “offensive, hateful, disrespectful, or otherwise inappropriate comment[s]” on any of its social media pages—and will remove them immediately.

There you have it: four written policies your rehab therapy practice absolutely must have. Do you have other written policies that your practice can’t live without? Share the details in the comment section below.

  • 6 Signs It's Time to Expand Your Rehab Therapy Practice Image

    articleMay 14, 2018 | 6 min. read

    6 Signs It's Time to Expand Your Rehab Therapy Practice

    So, you’ve started a physical therapy clinic —and grown it into a thriving, successful business. Is it time to expand further—to bring in a partner to complement your service offerings , hire additional employees to round out your schedule, or even open up another location (or maybe a few)? While it may be tempting to expand as soon as you start turning a profit, there’s a good reason to make this next decision carefully. After all, overexpansion …

  • More Than a Number: Personalizing Patient Care in Your Growing Therapy Practice Image

    articleMar 28, 2018 | 4 min. read

    More Than a Number: Personalizing Patient Care in Your Growing Therapy Practice

    Many small private practices achieve success because of the stellar one-on-one care they provide—and amazing patient experiences they create. After all, what better way to foster patient loyalty and garner word-of-mouth referrals to ultimately boost revenue as well as your reputation? Unfortunately, though, that level of attention can be difficult to maintain as your practice grows—and patients can end up falling through the proverbial cracks as providers’ calendars become increasingly jam-packed. That is, of course, unless you …

  • Sticking Point: 4 Tips for Getting Patients to Do Their HEPs Image

    articleMar 9, 2018 | 5 min. read

    Sticking Point: 4 Tips for Getting Patients to Do Their HEPs

    We all know the benefits of a physical therapy home exercise program—and that home exercise compliance can make a huge difference in a patient’s ability to achieve his or her functional goals and remain engaged in a plan of care. But, getting patients (especially those who don’t regularly prioritize physical fitness) to adhere to their prescribed home exercises can be a challenge for even the most motivated physical therapists. After all, you’re essentially trying to convince someone …

  • The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018 Image

    downloadJun 28, 2018

    The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018

    To see results from our most recent industry survey, check out the 2019 State of Rehab Therapy Report. To say that the healthcare industry is complex would be an understatement. While the advent of technology has made care more precise, efficient, and collaborative than ever before, it has also put greater pressure on providers to deliver high-value care at scale. After all, big data makes it possible to not only develop the most effective, evidence-based best practices …

  • Reactivate Now! How to Get Past Patients to Come Back Image

    articleJan 17, 2019 | 7 min. read

    Reactivate Now! How to Get Past Patients to Come Back

    Goodbyes shouldn’t be permanent—especially when it comes to discharging patients. In fact, should those patients ever need to return to therapy, your practice should be the go-to for all their PT needs. That’s why it’s crucial to integrate a patient reactivation plan into your overall healthcare marketing strategy. What is patient reactivation? But, first things first: what do we mean when we talk about patient reactivation—and why is it important? In a nutshell, patient reactivation refers to …

  • Common Questions from Our 2018 State of Rehab Therapy Webinar Image

    articleJul 13, 2018 | 21 min. read

    Common Questions from Our 2018 State of Rehab Therapy Webinar

    Earlier this year, we surveyed nearly 7,000 PT, OT, and SLP professionals on the current state of the rehab therapy industry, asking questions on everything from salary and student loan debt to payer mix and patient dropout. We then compiled their responses into our comprehensive State of Rehab Therapy in 2018 report and hosted webinar during which Dr. Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC/L, president and co-founder of WebPT, and Nancy Ham, WebPT CEO, offered their take on …

  • Founder Letter: 3 Ways to Become a Better PT, OT, or SLP in 2019 Image

    articleJan 8, 2019 | 11 min. read

    Founder Letter: 3 Ways to Become a Better PT, OT, or SLP in 2019

    It’s official; we’ve closed out 2018 and are stepping into a brand-new year. While I don’t recommend saving up those important intentions and resolutions for the kick-off of a new year, it does represent a potent time to release the things that no longer serve us—and embrace more of what does. In the past, I’ve used this occasion to put out some predictions for the year to come—and I’ve done that again here —but right now, I’d …

  • Common Questions from Our Stalled Patient Progress Webinar Image

    articleFeb 7, 2018 | 9 min. read

    Common Questions from Our Stalled Patient Progress Webinar

    Earlier this week, Dr. Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC/L, the president and co-founder of WebPT, teamed up with Charlotte Bohnett, WebPT’s director of demand generation, to host a webinar on common barriers to patient progress —and strategies for overcoming them. During the question-and-answer portion of the presentation, we received quite a few audience questions on the nuances of fostering patient engagement and moving patients toward their therapy goals as efficiently as possible. We’ve compiled the most frequently …

  • The State of Rehab Therapy in 2019 Image

    downloadJun 17, 2019

    The State of Rehab Therapy in 2019

    Each year, we survey thousands of rehab therapy professionals on the metrics, strategies, and complicating factors that influence success in the current healthcare market. In 2019, we received more than 6,000 responses from individuals in a variety of settings, specialties, and geographic regions—and we’ve compiled all that data into the single most comprehensive annual report on the state of the rehab therapy industry.  This report features insights on everything from demographics and financial metrics to regulatory challenges …

Achieve greatness in practice with the ultimate EMR for PTs, OTs, and SLPs.