Thanks to countless hours of hard work and dedication, physical therapists now enjoy some form of direct access in every state. The battle for direct access has not been an easy one, but we’ve made a lot of headway. Today, patients have the ability to seek—at minimum—a physical therapy evaluation in every state. This opens many doors for growing your private practice—if you understand how to operate and market your business with direct access in mind.

Unfortunately, many physical therapy programs spend very little time teaching students how to build and market a practice. Most private practice owners have taken additional coursework or learned the business ropes through trial and error. This lack of preparation stands in stark contrast with the education other healthcare professionals, such as chiropractors, receive. From day one, student chiropractors learn about business and marketing business because they—and their instructors—fully expect that all graduates will go on to own and operate a private practice.

Through my experience of owning and operating a cash-based physical therapy practice, I’ve gained a lot of insight into direct access and what it means for the physical therapy profession. At least 80% of my patients come to me through direct access, and I would like to share some ways that I have harnessed the power of direct access to grow my practice.

Physical Therapy Software Buyer’s Guide - Regular BannerPhysical Therapy Software Buyer’s Guide - Small Banner

Tip #1: Direct access is a mindset, not a permission slip.

To make direct access work for your practice, you must have the mindset of an independent services provider. That is, you must accept that marketing and building your practice is your responsibility. Direct access cuts out the need for the middleman (traditionally, the physician or the insurance company) and allows physical therapists to market directly to the consumer. This is a new skill for most therapists, who are often uncomfortable with the idea of marketing themselves.

As a profession, we need to get comfortable with educating the public about the benefits of physical therapy and the importance of early access to care. We need to connect with consumers wherever they are—whether it’s online or in-person. This entails everything from having a search-optimized website that allows potential customers to easily find you to writing PT-themed articles for your local news publications. Additionally, I have asked my clients to leave Yelp reviews when they are satisfied with my services as this helps me grow my online presence. At the end of the day, you can have the greatest practice ever—but if consumers don’t know you’re there, you will fail

Furthermore, practice owners need to shift their thinking to be more in line with the cash-based model. Basically, that means that regardless of who is paying the bill, you must treat the patient as a highly valued customer—and hopefully, a lifetime client—of your business. These patients become our “brand ambassadors,” sharing our value with their own networks and thus, driving even more business to our practices.

Tip #2: Physicians are colleagues, not gatekeepers.

With direct access, we as PTs have become a source of referrals for physicians. In Virginia, where I practice, my direct access certification allows me to perform an initial evaluation and 14 business days of treatment before I need a physician-signed plan of care. Because most of my patients come to me through direct access—before they’ve seen a physician for the issue—I am in a position to refer the patient to the physician who I believe is the best resource for that patient. This has allowed me to build relationships with physicians who are advocates of physical therapy and who provide excellent care for my patients. These physicians appreciate the referrals I give them, and in turn, they refer additional patients to me. By building relationships and sharing your unique value with the physicians in your area, you can develop a strong network of like-minded care providers. I even market to physicians who own physical therapy clinics (POPTS) by explaining that 90% of their patients will probably do just fine with a referral to the physician’s in-house clinic; I just want to be the provider of choice for the 10% who need something different. Using this approach, I have built up my reputation as a therapist who takes on difficult cases—and gets results.

Tip #3: Other professionals who have direct access are a vital part of your network.

I have built lasting referral relationships with personal trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, massage therapists, hairstylists, and boutique owners. These business owners have always had direct access to their customers, and they know how to convert potential customers into valued clients. And they’ll be happy to refer to you when they understand the value of your services. To that end, I have offered to do service trades with other business owners to give them an idea of what I offer in my practice. This strategy has proven very successful for me, and it can for you, too. Trust me; once these people experience the level of care you offer, they will become your biggest cheerleaders.

To boost your marketing efforts even more, you could try joining a local business group—such as your community’s chamber of commerce—or even a more informal social networking group. By connecting with others in the business community, you can learn about business, marketing, and customer service from professionals outside of the physical therapy profession. Plus, you’ll have one more platform for educating people about direct access to physical therapy.

By fulfilling your role as an independent provider of care with confidence—and putting effort into building your professional network and your online footprint—you have the ability to inspire the public to take advantage of their right to direct access to physical therapy services. Research has shown us the benefits of early access to physical therapy for common issues such as low back pain—and now it’s time for us to spread the word.

Interested in adding telehealth and wellness services to your practice?

Download our free guide to learn how.

Please enable JavaScript to submit form.
  • Therapy Heroes, Assemble! How to Fight the Top 3 Threats Facing PTs, OTs, and SLPs Image

    articleOct 25, 2017 | 7 min. read

    Therapy Heroes, Assemble! How to Fight the Top 3 Threats Facing PTs, OTs, and SLPs

    Earlier this year, WebPT conducted a survey to gain a better understanding of the state of the rehab therapy industry—and we were thrilled to receive more than 5,200 complete responses from rehab therapy professionals across the country. With this type of large-scale data collection and analysis, we’ve been able to produce a comprehensive snapshot of the rehab therapy industry’s demographics, trends, frustrations, and motivations, all of which shape the industry’s future outlook and potential for success in …

  • Direct Access in Action: Jennifer Gamboa of Body Dynamics, Inc. Image

    articleOct 27, 2014 | 5 min. read

    Direct Access in Action: Jennifer Gamboa of Body Dynamics, Inc.

    In many cases, the old retail axiom “you get what you pay for” holds true within the healthcare market as well—and that is precisely why Jennifer Gamboa, DPT, OCS, MTC, and president of Body Dynamics, Inc. , believes that more physical therapy practices should be looking beyond the third-party payer game as they develop their business models. The way Jennifer sees it, declining reimbursement rates not only threaten the survival of private practice physical therapy clinics, but …

  • Common Questions from Our Cash-Based Physical Therapy Webinar Image

    articleAug 30, 2017 | 19 min. read

    Common Questions from Our Cash-Based Physical Therapy Webinar

    Earlier this week, WebPT’s president and co-founder, Dr. Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC/L, teamed up with cash-based physical therapy guru Dr. Jarod Carter, PT, DPT, MTC, to host a webinar covering all things cash pay —from insurance contracting considerations and Medicare rules to self-referral marketing and service pricing. Thousands of rehab therapy professionals registered to attend, which means we received a ton of questions—so many, in fact, that there was no way we could answer all of …

  • 5 Things PTs Must Do to Take Over the World (as Told at the 9th Annual Graham Sessions) Image

    articleJan 19, 2016 | 12 min. read

    5 Things PTs Must Do to Take Over the World (as Told at the 9th Annual Graham Sessions)

    To most people, Graham Sessions probably sound like something that would take place next to a crackling campfire—with a bag of jumbo Jet-Puffed marshmallows, a bar of creamy Hershey’s milk chocolate, and a box of crisp Honey Maids. When I attended my first Graham Sessions last year , I was initially disappointed to discover that this beloved annual event had nothing to do with s’mores. What I soon realized, though, is that this forum—often touted as a …

  • Are PTs Facing an Identity Crisis? Here are 5 Takeaways from the 2015 Graham Sessions. Image

    articleJan 20, 2015 | 8 min. read

    Are PTs Facing an Identity Crisis? Here are 5 Takeaways from the 2015 Graham Sessions.

    Physical therapists are all about action. They spend their days helping patients set and reach their therapy goals. They are fixers, doers, movers, and shakers—not philosophizers. That’s what makes the Graham Sessions so different from any other PT industry event. Now in its eighth year, this annual summit started when a small group of physical therapists decided to get together and have a real, honest conversation about the issues facing their profession. Over the years, that group …

  • Live from the Direct Access Front Lines: The Story of Your Front Office Image

    articleOct 16, 2014 | 6 min. read

    Live from the Direct Access Front Lines: The Story of Your Front Office

    A self-referred patient walks into a PT clinic. Is this the start of a joke or a story with a happy ending? Well, that’s up to you. Your direct access marketing efforts will inspire patients to pick up the phone and dial your clinic. But then what? Your front office team is your direct access front line, and if they’re not prepared to interact with self-referred patients (i.e., those with no referral from another healthcare provider), then …

  • The Role of the Front Office in Patient Retention Image

    articleJun 28, 2017 | 5 min. read

    The Role of the Front Office in Patient Retention

    In the words of the great William Shakespeare, “All the world's a stage; and all the men and women merely players.” Whether we’re talking about the world’s stage or an actual stage, the success of every great performance hinges on each actor’s ability to fully embrace his or her role. In the case of a rehab therapy ensemble, each role is instrumental to ensuring the success of the entire practice. And when it comes to measuring that …

  • Future-Proofing Your Practice: Diversifying Revenue Streams Image

    downloadJan 7, 2016

    Future-Proofing Your Practice: Diversifying Revenue Streams

    What does it take to future-proof your practice? In this guide, we’ll talk about how you can incorporate health and wellness services to diversify your practice’s revenue streams and boost your bottom line. Ready to prepare your practice for the age of payment reform? Enter your email address below to download Future-Proofing Your Practice, Volume 3.

  • How to Equip Your Clinic for Cash-Pay Services Image

    articleOct 6, 2014 | 6 min. read

    How to Equip Your Clinic for Cash-Pay Services

    A few weeks ago, I was making the rounds at a party, sampling—okay, more like scarfing—all of the hors d'oeuvres and stopping along the way to chit-chat with fellow partygoers. Among our topics of conversation: cheese, football, cheese, running, and physical therapy. So, how did we get from provolone to PT? Well, in between mouthfuls of smoked gouda and crackers, I asked a new acquaintance—we’ll call him Ted—about his hobbies. “Actually, I’ve gotten into those Spartan adventure …

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