In the era of “fake news,” social media gossip, and Wikipedia articles that literally anyone can edit, knowing where to get the right information can be a challenge. So, it’s easy to understand why patients might have the wrong idea about physical therapy, especially when you consider the branding problem plaguing the PT profession. But, ignoring the haters—even the misinformed ones—isn’t an option. After all, misconceptions can quickly snowball, further damaging the physical therapy brand. And it’s up to those of us in the physical therapy community to right the ship. With that in mind, I’ve decided to tackle a few points of confusion that may keep patients from choosing PT first.

Retention, Please: Why Patient Dropout is Killing Rehab Therapy Practices— and How to Stop It - Regular BannerRetention, Please: Why Patient Dropout is Killing Rehab Therapy Practices— and How to Stop It - Small Banner

Do I need a referral to see a physical therapist?

Nope. As WebPT’s Erica McDermott states in this blog post, “At this point, patients in all 50 states—plus the US Virgin Islands and Washington, DC—may be evaluated by, and receive some form of treatment from, a physical therapist without obtaining a referral.” That means a current PT patient who loves his or her provider can refer friends and family directly to that therapist. It also means that a prospective patient searching for health information and provider options online can go directly to any PTs he or she discovers—and that represents a huge direct-to-consumer marketing opportunity.

Are physical therapists doctors?

In most cases, yes, although many PTs may not refer to themselves as such. However, all physical therapy education programs are now doctoral-level, meaning all new PTs entering the workforce are doctors of physical therapy. And while there are still therapists practicing with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, many have gone on to earn transitional doctorates, or tDPTs. That being said, the lingering lack of educational uniformity—with respect to degrees as well as continuing education criteria—is likely a tremendous contributing factor to the overall PT branding problem. But, that’s another conversation for another day.

Is physical therapy only appropriate for people who have been seriously injured?

Definitely not. Physical therapy is beneficial for all manners of care, including diabetes management, cardiovascular health, pain management, and preventive care. The PT scope of practice allows licensed therapists to evaluate and treat individuals for existing musculoskeletal conditions and catch potential problems before they negatively impact an individual’s daily life.

Are opioids a cheaper alternative to physical therapy?

As a healthcare provider, you’re no doubt well aware of the dangers of opioids, so you might be surprised to see this question here. After all, the ongoing opioid epidemic has been a hot-button issue in the media lately. And yet, as of 2015, more than one in three Americans had received a prescription for opioids. We know opioids are highly addictive and that overusing them can be lethal. Furthermore, opioids don’t address the underlying cause of the pain. And while the initial out-of-pocket cost for physical therapy may be higher than a prescription for painkillers, the long-term expense associated with prolonged opioid use—and the potential side-effects—can end up costing the patient way more in the long run.

Is bed rest a better solution for pain and injury than physical therapy?

As a kid, there was no better cure for anything that ailed you than bed rest and a bowl of chicken noodle soup. (Personally, I was always a firm believer in the healing properties of Chicken and Stars.) But, as a grown-up—er, an adult—and a licensed healthcare provider, you know that musculoskeletal injury requires a little more comprehensive intervention than soup and sleep. And while your potential patients may not be downing bowlfuls of soup to alleviate their pain, many may be under the impression that rest is the best way to heal. However, prolonged stationary periods can cause muscle stiffness and atrophy as well as loss of tendon flexibility—all of which could lead to reinjury later on. That’s why it’s important to promote the benefits of movement therapy when it comes to injury recovery.

Why choose PT when massage therapy, chiropractic care, or personal training is cheaper?

You know what really grinds my gears? When people compare physical therapists to massage therapists, chiropractors, and personal trainers—and I’m sure I’m not alone. That’s not to say those professionals don’t play a role in patient recovery. In fact, many of them provide services that are complementary to physical therapy care plans. However, of those four types of professionals, only one focuses on movement and restoration of the entire body and is qualified to evaluate, diagnose, and provide treatment. (Hint: It’s physical therapists.)

Even in the Information Age, it’s easy to be misinformed. The answers to these questions probably seem like no-brainers to you, but to your patients, finding the right information often requires a lot of legwork. PTs across the country have their work cut out for them when it comes to improving their industry’s image and educating the general population on the benefits of movement over meds. Standardizing industry characteristics—like physical therapy education requirements and professional designations—represents a big, and necessary, step toward improving the public’s perception of PT. But, every therapist must make an effort to educate the public and advocate on behalf of the entire PT profession. Only then will we begin to see meaningful, lasting change.

  • 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 …

  • The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018 Image

    downloadJun 28, 2018

    The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018

    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 for individual diagnoses, but also form evidence-based strategies for managing the health of populations. In the spirit of …

  • 7 Lessons Learned from Opening a PT Private Practice Image

    articleJul 25, 2017 | 9 min. read

    7 Lessons Learned from Opening a PT Private Practice

    A little over a year ago, Kaci Monroe was punching the clock as a staff physical therapist in a small outpatient clinic in northwestern Montana. And while there were a lot of great things about the job—the location was incredible, the patients were awesome, and the practice was growing—Kaci couldn’t shake the feeling that she was destined for something more. “As a new graduate, getting my first job, I remember during the interview telling them someday my …

  • The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018 Image

    webinarJun 1, 2018

    The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018

    Falling reimbursements. Skyrocketing insurance premiums and copays. Crippling student loan debt. As a PT, OT, or SLP, sometimes it feels like it’s you against the world. After all, the challenges you face on a daily basis are many and complex. But, you’re not alone. In fact, we recently surveyed nearly 7,000 rehab therapy professionals on everything from payment rates and clinic budgets to education costs and salary, and we found some pretty strong—and surprising—trends. [video://]   Curious …

  • 6 Things I Wish Anyone Would Have Told Me About Being a PT Image

    articleJul 26, 2017 | 7 min. read

    6 Things I Wish Anyone Would Have Told Me About Being a PT

    I realized I wanted to be a physical therapist after experiencing—and rehabbing—a knee injury while playing collegiate basketball. But until I actually became a PT, I didn’t understand what it really meant to practice physical therapy. A physical therapist not only treats a patient’s injury; he or she treats the whole person. And if that PT is in private practice, he or she also is trying to run a business while staying on top of changing market …

  • The State of Rehab Therapy in 2017 Image

    webinarJun 5, 2017

    The State of Rehab Therapy in 2017

    WebPT recently conducted an industry survey of thousands of rehab therapy professionals across a wide variety of settings, specialties, and geographic regions. Our goal: To capture an accurate snapshot of the demographics, trends, frustrations, and motivations that shape our businesses, our future outlook, and our potential for success in this environment of change. In our July webinar, WebPT president and co-founder Dr. Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC/L, and WebPT CEO Nancy Ham will share and analyze the …

  • The 3 Immutable Laws of Direct Access Marketing Image

    articleOct 15, 2014 | 8 min. read

    The 3 Immutable Laws of Direct Access Marketing

    It took expensive membership dues, countless lobbying and volunteer hours, and 25 years, but we finally did it: Direct access to physical therapy services is now available in all 50 states in at least one form or another. It wasn’t easy, so it’s important to take a few moments to celebrate our achievements and raise a glass to all of the passionate physical therapists and physical therapy advocates out there who made it happen. Okay, time’s up—and …

  • The Ultimate Checklist for PT, OT, and SLP New Grads Image

    articleMay 9, 2018 | 7 min. read

    The Ultimate Checklist for PT, OT, and SLP New Grads

    The end of graduate school is an exciting time. For newly minted clinicians, the lure of treating patients with a greater sense of ownership and autonomy is empowering and liberating. Caught up in the rush of that newfound freedom, though, it’s easy to forget about some of the crucial steps we must take to set our careers in the right direction. Never fear! Even if you’re still busy sipping cocktails on the beach and celebrating, we’ve got …

  • This Week in PT News, June 5 Image

    articleJun 5, 2015 | 2 min. read

    This Week in PT News, June 5

    Depression May Lead to Low Back Pain Multiple studies now show that patients who suffer from depression are at an increased risk of developing lower back pain. Researchers analyzed a pool of data from 19 different studies, ultimately determining that symptoms of depression increased the risk of developing low back pain by around 60%. They cited multiple factors that could account for the link, including age, biological characteristics, lifestyle, and genetics. To find out more about the …

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