As the healthcare landscape evolves, smart practice owners and department managers will evolve, too—ahead of the curve. As part of their evolution, some therapists are incorporating wellness services into their business models. “Wellness” is a buzzword in physical therapy circles right now. But what does the term actually mean? And how can we use wellness services to better help our clients and ensure our clinics thrive?

Wellness Defined

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) defines wellness as:“a multidimensional state of being describing the existence of positive health in an individual as exemplified by quality of life and a sense of wellbeing.” Furthermore, the APTA believes that “physical therapists are uniquely qualified to assume leadership positions in efforts to prevent injury and disability, and fully supports the positive roles that physical therapists and physical therapist assistants play in the promotion of healthy lifestyles, wellness, and injury prevention.” And that goes for physical therapists in all 50 states, whether or not the state practice act contains specific language surrounding wellness. For more information on the APTA’s policies regarding physical fitness, wellness, and health as well as the association’s position on advocacy for physical education, physical conditioning, and wellness, click here.

The Legal Stuff

However, it is always advisable to contact your state board and review your professional liability insurance (PLI) policy—perhaps with an attorney—before introducing a new wellness program. Your PLI may not cover all of your risk because most policies only apply to medical incidents that arise from performing professional services that fall within your state practice act. You can find more information on protecting yourself and your business here

Wellness and Medicare

Offering wellness services can be a great way to teach and interact with the Medicare community—even if you don’t contract with Medicare insurance. Because physical therapy-related wellness services are not a Medicare-covered service, you can enter into a private pay arrangement with patients to provide yoga, Pilates, or strength training classes, which can improve core strength, flexibility, and general wellbeing. (Some wellness services—such as a yearly physical with a physician—are covered services, but most fitness training services are not). 

Your Wellness Program

You can design your wellness program in a way that makes sense for your clinic. One option is to offer wellness services as a continuation of care for patients whom you’ve discharged from formal physical therapy. This is a nice way to transition your existing patients who want to continue to develop strength and endurance but who don’t feel comfortable attending a commercial gym. These patients are already familiar with your clinic and staff and are often happy to make the switch to being cash-paying customers. Another option is to market your wellness services—private or small group yoga, Pilates, mobility training, or performance classes—to the general public as a way to bring new clients into your practice. 

If someone on your staff is already a certified yoga or Pilates instructor, you can ask him or her to lead group or one-on-one classes. If not, that’s okay. Some clinics bring in teachers to offer classes or private sessions. Either way, just make sure you choose someone with the appropriate certifications and experience working with post-rehab clients. You should feel confident that your clients are receiving the best possible instruction so they’re safely progressing toward their fitness goals. 

Setting Rates

When setting your prices for wellness services, you will need to do some homework; see what gyms, personal trainers, and yoga/Pilates instructors are charging in your area. This will give you a feel for what the market rate is for cash-based services in your community. For your own rates, I would suggest going slightly higher in price. We want to communicate the value of our services based on our advanced education and training. By setting our price point slightly higher than market value, we send the message that we are providing a unique service—one that our clients can’t receive anywhere else.

I agree with the APTA’s assessment that physical therapists are uniquely qualified to provide wellness services, specifically a safe progression of exercises to assist clients in reaching their goals. This is one way in which we can help transform society by improving the human experience—all while diversifying our offerings and thus, evolving ahead of the curve. 

Does your clinic provide wellness services? If so, what services? If not, would you like to? What questions do you have about getting started? Let me know in the comments section below.

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