For most patients, physical therapy takes a long time—much longer than many other types of care. Improvements happen slowly, and progress isn’t always immediately noticeable. So, how do you keep patients engaged enough to continue working hard—inside and outside of the clinic—when they start to question the effectiveness of your treatment? Well, you ditch the carrots and sticks in favor of motivation techniques that really work. Here are four strategies you can implement today to better motivate your physical therapy patients:

The State of Rehab Therapy in 2019 Guide - Regular BannerThe State of Rehab Therapy in 2019 Guide - Small Banner

1. Set clear expectations from the beginning.

As WebPT’s Kylie McKee explains here, it’s totally normal to feel discouraged “if you set your goals higher than what you can realistically achieve,” which is why every rehab therapist should make it a point to work with patients during the initial encounter to not only set realistic, measurable goals, but also “educate those patients on the kind of results they can expect.” McKee recommends explaining “that restoring function takes time and effort”—from both the PT and the patient. Plus, while “therapy is effective—and the results tend to last longer than those derived from more instantaneous treatments (e.g., surgery or injections),” it’s important for the patient to understand that “it’s not an overnight process.” This type of level-setting from the beginning can do wonders for keeping patients engaged in their care—and committed to completing their home exercise programs—even during periods when progress isn’t as great (or as obvious) as they might have hoped.

2. Focus on the positive.

There’s a reason why positive reinforcement is an important motivational tool: because it works. While we wouldn’t recommend laying it on thick (your patients will be able to spot insincerity a mile away), it’s important to point out the positive gains that your patients are making—and to celebrate data-backed milestones—even if they’re small. To make the most impact, be sure you’ve got data points to, well, point to, including patient-reported outcome measurement tools and the results of objective tests. If you’re using an interactive, multimedia HEP that provides a secure messaging platform, you can celebrate home exercise progress in near real-time. Plus, patients will be able to track their own progress between sessions, which can create momentum to help them reach the next goal—and then the next.

3. Stay connected between appointments.

Speaking of secure messaging, it’s important to maintain an open line of communication so patients can ask questions—and voice frustrations—between sessions. Simply allowing your patients to express their concerns about a lack of progress—and being empathetic to them—can go along way in keeping those patients engaged for the long haul. You can also use these opportunities to help patients refocus on the positive by reminding them of past successes. While you could certainly provide your work email address or have a dedicated voicemail box for situations like these, offering patients a secure messaging platform that they can access via an app from anywhere that’s convenient for them is a huge value-add. Plus, you or your staff members will be able to respond in near real-time, which can help patients feel connected to their provider between visits. (If you’d rather not respond to patient inquiries as they come in, you could always set up dedicated chat “office-hours” during which you make yourself available to respond to patients.)

To really connect with patients between appointments, you may also want to implement PRM software (such as WebPT Reach) to send valuable and uber-relevant content to patients at specific intervals between sessions.  

4. Provide exceptional, valuable care—and a great patient experience.

While this may seem like it goes without saying, the very best thing you can do to motivate your patients is provide them with the very best care—and patient experience. And that applies during patient appointments as well as between them. To ensure you’re doing just that, you’ll want to choose super-relevant CEUs, implement an outcomes tracking protocol (as mentioned above), and collect patient feedback to monitor your patients’ perception of their experience with your practice. While traditional satisfaction surveys have their drawbacks, loyalty metrics—such as Net Promoter Score® (NPS®)—can be incredibly valuable. (Hint: Look for a PRM software that has patient feedback collection built right in.)

While some clinics may choose to offer small rewards to celebrate patient progress milestones, extrinsic motivation only goes so far. Instead—or at least additionally—find ways to tap into patients’ intrinsic motivation by understanding their objectives and helping them connect the treatment you’re providing to those objectives. How do you keep your patients motivated throughout their course of care? Tell us what works for you in the comment section below.

  • 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 …

  • 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 …

  • 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 …

  • 7 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Patients Image

    articleFeb 13, 2018 | 7 min. read

    7 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Patients

    Everyone has an off day every now and again, but some patients seem almost impossible to please—or to motivate. And unhappy, unmotivated patients aren’t going to get the most out of therapy—or do your practice any favors in the word-of-mouth referral department . So, what’s a conscientious provider to do? Of course, you want your patients to be engaged in their care —and thus, more willing to cooperate. But, that’s not always the easiest feat to accomplish. …

  • 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 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 …

  • 6 Icebreakers for New PT, OT, and SLP Patients Image

    articleFeb 16, 2018 | 6 min. read

    6 Icebreakers for New PT, OT, and SLP Patients

    While beginning a new patient’s first appointment by asking why that patient is seeking your services may be the most efficient route to developing his or her treatment plan, such a direct approach can leave your patients feeling brushed off. Now, more than ever, patients want to feel connected to their healthcare providers, and that requires excellent patient communication skills on your part—communication skills that you’ll need to apply before you jump into the clinical stuff. Think …

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