No matter how you spin it, your practice wouldn’t exist without your patients. Each time an individual returns to your care, he or she demonstrates appreciation for the service you provide. So, how do you demonstrate your appreciation for them? Some folks might shy away from the prospect of coordinating a big bash, but you don’t have to invest a whole lot of time—or a whole lot of money, for that matter—into organizing a patient appreciation event. In fact, with a few well-crafted games and gifts, you can show your patients how much you appreciate them without breaking the bank. To that end, I present you with some fun ideas for your next patient appreciation day.

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1. Go off-site—or don’t.

While some folks may relish the thought of pulling together a major party, the fact is, a patient appreciation event can be as big—or as laid-back—as you want it to be. There’s definitely nothing preventing you from hosting the event at your practice, just as there’s no rule against renting out an area at a local park. (Unless there is—check your local laws, folks!) If you want to take things off-site, but you’d rather put the bulk of your funds toward food, prizes, and activities, then consider keeping things close to home—literally. A backyard barbecue is a great way to cut down costs without sacrificing the excitement of an off-site adventure. If you’d rather leave large-scale event-planning to the professionals, hosting a small, in-office get-together featuring treats and fun activities is a totally acceptable alternative. And because your patients already know how to find your practice, it’ll make attending your event a little easier for some people.

2. Make it themed.

While “patient appreciation” is certainly reason enough to celebrate, theming your event makes it all the more memorable. Plus, if you pick a new theme for every event, unveiling the next theme will generate excitement and anticipation among your patients. Many themes also give way to cool, quirky activities that will surprise and delight your guests. For example, an ’80s theme is a great excuse to bust out the old Atari console or rent some classic arcade games, and no island luau is complete without leis and a pig roast.

3. Offer freebies.

If there’s one thing pretty much everyone responds to, it’s treats. So treat yo’self—and your patients. Homemade refreshments are always an economical option, but if you’re not ready to channel your inner-Julia Child, a small goodie bag is an easy way to say thanks in a tangible way. It’s also a great opportunity to distribute branded pens, stress balls, or any other items bearing your clinic’s name and logo (always be marketing, friends). You can also offer freebies without spending money out-of-pocket by offering complimentary mini-wellness services such as fitness screenings or 10-minute chair massages. (Pro-tip: Mini-services also make great prizes for games and drawings.)

4. Get your head in the game.

Speaking of games, physical activities provide a great engagement opportunity for kids—and adults—of all ages. Plus, games involving a physical element align with your mission to promote health. And putting a rehab therapy twist on typical party games is a clever way to keep things interesting while simultaneously reminding partygoers of the thought and care you and your staff provide. For inspiration, check out this “spine toss” game. You can also incorporate activities that put the “fun” in “functional” by gamifying exercises patients can do at home, too. This bean bag balance game is a perfect example of this, especially for pediatric patients.

5. Present an opportunity to win.

Let’s face it: People love to win. And when it comes to hosting contests during your patient appreciation event, you stand to gain just as much as the participants. Not only are contests an opportunity for participants to score some extra-cool swag, but they also provide an easy way for you to market your practice. You can announce drawing winners via email, thus requiring participants to provide an email address. This is especially advantageous if you encourage attendees to bring friends and family members, as this broadens your ability to market your practice to new patients. As this article from Mashable states, “With the lure of a prize, many people are prepared to share information with you as part of the entry process.” That said, always get permission before including contest participants in future emails and marketing campaigns. If you’re less inclined to use email, consider announcing contest winners on social media, which would require entrants to follow your practice’s social media account. No matter what kind of contest you decide to do, be sure to consider any local or state laws.

6. Make memories.

As a rule, people tend to appreciate sentiment. We make memories and look back on them fondly, and many folks love having knick-knacks and keepsakes to remind them of happy occasions. As a rehab therapist, your helping hand guides patients through a healing journey, and as a result, you become an integral part of their lives. To ensure your patients never forget you or your practice, consider offering activities that send partygoers home with a tangible memory. One popular activity is a DIY photo booth. Photo booths give folks a chance to show off their silly side, and the best part is that you don’t even have to rent expensive equipment. Grab a few silly props, a simple backdrop, and a camera with a self-timer, and presto! You’ve got a simple photo booth. You can also encourage attendees to use their own smartphones and upload their favorite shots to Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, along with your event’s hashtag. And if Snapchat is in your social media repertoire, you can also get your own custom filter that any partygoer can use when taking “snaps” at your event.

7. Get your whole practice involved.

In truth, these ideas barely scratch the surface of all the fun things you can offer at your next customer appreciation event, and you can put your personal touch—one that aligns with your clinic’s brand—on each one. As you plan your next event, be sure to get your whole practice involved. Get input from all levels on activities, themes, and freebies. Create a shared Pinterest board where all employees can view and add suggestions. Ask your craftier team members to lend their creative spirit by planning activities or leading advertising efforts through office flyers and social media. Your team’s enthusiasm about the event will be palpable, and it won’t go unnoticed by your patients.

At WebPT, we know that any event requires plenty of planning and thought—our annual Ascend event is evidence of this—but your event doesn’t have to be extravagant. Your patients—as well as your team—are bound to enjoy any event you organize in their honor, no matter what you end up pulling together. The idea is simply to show your patients just how much you appreciate them—as well as how much you value their health and well-being. And that’s something worth celebrating.

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