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 also speak to a much larger problem within the medical community: the pervasive undervaluation of physical therapy care. But Jennifer and her team of therapists are changing that errored perception—one patient at a time. Because at Body Dynamics, patients—and their individual interests, needs, and goals—always come first. “No matter what, they [our patients] know they have an advocate,” Jennifer said in a recent interview with WebPT. “If that means collaborating with other medical professionals or referring to another medical specialty, then that’s what we do. Our number-one model is that we are your partner—the goal is always finding a way to empower you to get better, whatever it takes.”

And patients have definitely taken notice of the Body Dynamics team’s extraordinary commitment to transparent, patient-focused care—so much so that they are willing to pay for it, even if their health plans won’t. That’s why—in July of this year—the clinic cut all ties with insurance carriers. And that’s why, according to Jennifer, direct access patients make up nearly 100% of the clinic’s client base. “The reason we can do it that way is because we have the reputation that we do,” she said. “We put our money where our mouth is.”

Because so much of the clinic’s business comes from word-of-mouth recommendations, patient outcomes—and in turn, patient satisfaction—are crucial. “If you value your end user—your patient—as a person who is worth your time, energy, and focus, our experience is that they will value you,” Jennifer said. And when patients see and feel positive change as a result of the therapy you provide, they’re going to tell people about it: “A patient’s outcome is so critical to their life, their health, and their wellbeing,” Jennifer said. “And they’ll pass on that word, whether you’re in-network or not.”

On that note, the majority of Body Dynamics’ marketing efforts fall into the relationship-building bucket. “In the past, we’ve run traditional ad campaigns, and we’ve found that it’s just not effective,” Jennifer said. “No amount of branding is going to matter without having that relationship. So for us, it makes much more sense to invest in that.”

So, the clinic hosts community health talks, participates in career day activities at area schools, and sponsors local fun-runs. Then, they run ads promoting those events. Still, Body Dynamics doesn’t put all of its marketing eggs in the direct-to-consumer basket. For the clinical staff, each interaction with a physician is a marketing opportunity. “We’re marketing to physicians within the patient care process, simply because we’re doing a good job,” she said. “For them [physicians], it’s all about the care the patient is receiving. And when we talk to them, we’re talking about evidence and facts and data.”

Through those conversations, the therapists at Body Dynamics have built up a network of physicians who recommend the clinic’s therapy services regularly. In some cases, the referring physician’s practice even has its own physical therapy provider—but the doctor chooses to recommend Body Dynamics anyway. “They will refer to us when they know the patient in front of them really needs our help,” Jennifer said. “So when that referral comes in, we know it comes from a place of tremendous respect.”

And not surprisingly, when patients have the choice of potentially getting better faster by going out of network versus staying in network but taking longer to see results, they tend to choose the route that will allow them to achieve their goals as quickly and efficiently as possible. According to Jennifer, that is the exact reason that physical therapy can hold its own in the retail marketplace. “The idea is that you can have a whole variety of price points, but with all of them, you’ll still get our expertise,” she said. “So there are a lot of different ways to skin this cat, but the first step is that we [PTs] have to recognize our value.”

Of course, many therapists are reluctant to forgo insurance contracts in favor of a direct access-heavy model. But to Jennifer, the freedom that kind of model affords is well worth the effort. “We have a really different model and a really different mindset, but we’re used to problem-solving,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s about being passionate about changing people’s lives.”

And to PTs who are hesitant to dip their toes into the direct access pool, Jennifer offers the following advice: “You should strip and jump.” In other words, she says, “This [direct access] is our opportunity to level the playing field. So, grab the bull by the horns and run with it. You have the freedom to be everything you’ve wanted to be.”

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