Communication is wildly important to the patient-provider relationship, and the things you do say matter just as much as the things you don’t. We’ve already covered the conversations you should be having with your patients. Today, let’s talk about the conversations you shouldn’t be having. Here are five phrases you should steer clear of when communicating with patients—if you want to keep them coming back, that is:

Ditch the Donuts: Referral Marketing Strategies that Actually Work - Regular BannerDitch the Donuts: Referral Marketing Strategies that Actually Work - Small Banner

1. “The popliteus originates from the lateral femoral condyle.” (Using overly clinical language.)

You’re an expert—and it’s important to demonstrate your expert knowledge to your patients. However, it’s also important not to confuse them—or scare them away—by using overly clinical language, acronyms that aren’t commonly known, or industry jargon. (The same holds true when marketing to prospective patients, by the way.) Instead, take the time to explain the patient’s condition—and the treatment plan you’re prescribing—in a way that he or she understands. Remember, the goal is to not only share knowledge, but also connect with your patients—and you can’t do that if you’re not on the same page. Now, that’s not to say you should dumb down your communication; simply ensure that what you’re saying is relevant to your audience. And hey, if you have a curious patient who has a passion for all things anatomy and physiology, then by all means, go clinical. Just pay attention to your patient’s body language to determine whether he or she is following—or not.

2. “Because I said so.” (Not explaining the reasoning behind your treatment and exercise prescriptions.)

Administering treatment or prescribing exercise without providing an explanation as to how that treatment or exercise connects to a patient’s goal is a surefire way to turn off even your most engaged patients. When delivered correctly, this sort of explanation can motivate a patient to complete his or her home exercise program and full course of care. As Bijal Shah—the author of this NGPT article—explains, “simply providing general information like telling patients that they use their quads/thighs and glutes/butt for sit to stand is helpful! Your patients are more likely to engage in wall sits and mini squats when they know the exercises are directly linked to their goals.” Before you can effectively connect the exercises you prescribe to your patients’ goals, though, you first must get to know those patients.

3. “You know, you really could do better.” (Discouraging your patients.)

This one should go without saying, but it’s never a good idea to discourage your patients. Doing so could not only hurt your business—who wants to be on the receiving end of negativity during a healthcare visit?—but also negatively impact that patient’s progress. This ABC News article paraphrases Donald Cole—the author of a 16-study review examining the impact of patient attitude on health—as saying, “Across a wide range of clinical conditions, from lower back pain to heart surgery, patients who felt they would do well in recovery did...Patients who were scared or pessimistic about their recovery did not recover as quickly as the optimists or as well.” And a healthcare provider’s attitude can go a long way toward helping patients feel positive about their potential outcomes. Now, I’m not suggesting you sugarcoat things—there are times you may need to have difficult conversations with patients who aren’t progressing—but highlighting patient progress and celebrating milestones is a great way to help patients focus of the good stuff.

(To learn more about why your patients may be stalling out during therapy—and what you can do to help them—join us on February 6 for a complimentary webinar. Even if you can’t attend the live event, register anyway, and you’ll receive the recorded version via email.)

4. “Well, I guess that would be okay.” (Allowing patients to dictate their care plans.)

As mentioned in number one above, you are the expert—which means it falls on you to create your patients’ care plans based on your years of schooling and clinical expertise. While you may be tempted to allow some of your more strong-willed patients to dictate their own treatment, it’s important to remember that you’re the clinician, and as such, you’re ultimately responsible for the outcome. Handing off that responsibility to your patients—even with the best of intentions—could put them at risk, not to mention create a major liability for your practice. That being said, be sure to take into consideration each patient’s concerns and input regarding his or her care plan—it is his or her body, after all. This should be a partnership between you and your patients, and working together is sure to produce the best results.

5. “See you whenever.” (Sending patients on their way without discussing next steps.)

Rehab therapy is a long-distance race—not a sprint—which means your patients need to attend their sessions and complete their at-home exercises in order to get the most out of their plans of care. To keep them engaged throughout, you’ve got to be proactive about communicating next steps—everything from scheduling their next appointment before they leave the office to reaching out between sessions to check on HEP progress, provide relevant content, and celebrate gains. It’s this kind of consistent outreach that will keep your patients engaged from their initial evaluation all the way through discharge—and keep you top-of-mind should they require your services again in the future.


There you have it: five things you should never say to a patient. Have your own no-nos to add to this list? Share what you’ve learned to avoid saying to patients in the comment section below.

  • The Ultimate Checklist for PT, OT, and SLP New Grads Image

    articleMay 9, 2018 | 7 min. read

    The Ultimate Checklist for PT, OT, and SLP New Grads

    The end of graduate school is an exciting time. For newly minted clinicians, the lure of treating patients with a greater sense of ownership and autonomy is empowering and liberating. Caught up in the rush of that newfound freedom, though, it’s easy to forget about some of the crucial steps we must take to set our careers in the right direction. Never fear! Even if you’re still busy sipping cocktails on the beach and celebrating, we’ve got …

  • Ditch the Carrots and Sticks: 4 Ways to Motivate Your Patients Image

    articleMay 25, 2018 | 4 min. read

    Ditch the Carrots and Sticks: 4 Ways to Motivate Your Patients

    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 …

  • Common Questions from our Cloudy with a Chance of Reform Webinar Image

    articleFeb 13, 2017 | 13 min. read

    Common Questions from our Cloudy with a Chance of Reform Webinar

    In our first webinar of 2017 , WebPT’s co-founder and president, Heidi Jannenga, teamed up with CEO Nancy Ham to discuss the current and future healthcare trends that will impact PTs, OTs, and SLPs. (Missed it? No worries; you can view the complete recording here .) As always, we received quite a few questions during the presentation—way more than we could address live. So, we’ve put them all here, in one handy Q&A doc. Scroll through and …

  • 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 …

  • 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 …

  • Common Questions from our State of Rehab Therapy Webinar Image

    articleJul 17, 2017 | 16 min. read

    Common Questions from our State of Rehab Therapy Webinar

    WebPT recently conducted an industry survey of thousands of rehab therapy professionals across a wide variety of settings, specialties, and geographic regions. Our goal: To capture an accurate snapshot of the demographics, trends, frustrations, and motivations that shape our businesses, our future outlook, and our potential for success in this environment of change. In last week’s webinar , WebPT President and Co-Founder Dr. Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC/L, and WebPT CEO Nancy Ham shared the results of …

  • Pop Goes the PT: Why Rehab Therapy is Crucial to Population Health Management Image

    articleOct 27, 2017 | 6 min. read

    Pop Goes the PT: Why Rehab Therapy is Crucial to Population Health Management

    Breaking: The United States is among the top 10 most unhealthy countries in the world. Okay, that probably doesn’t come as a shock, but it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, research shows that Americans are increasing their overall physical activity and nixing unhealthy habits like tobacco use . These notable changes likely contribute to another positive trend: for the first time in decades, the rate of obesity in the United States is holding steady— and …

  • 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. …

  • Cloudy with a Chance of Reform: 5 Key Healthcare Forecasts for 2017 Image

    webinarJan 5, 2017

    Cloudy with a Chance of Reform: 5 Key Healthcare Forecasts for 2017

    Predicting the weather is tough—just ask any meteorologist who has called for sun on the day of a major downpour. Well, predicting the fate of the US healthcare system isn’t much easier—there’s a lot up in the air, after all. But, even without a healthcare equivalent of Doppler Radar, there are a few key trends that are sure to have a major impact on PTs, OTs, and SLPs in 2017 and beyond. And to keep your practice …

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