When it comes to matters of the heart, folks often say that when it’s right, you just know. However, when it comes to matters of the rehab therapy practice, things are rarely so intuitive. That’s because finding a love match is rarely a scientific process, whereas finding a provider match typically comes down to a handful of pairing factors, including the provider’s skillset, communication style, and availability. However, as we mentioned during last month’s webinar, more than 25% of referrals are directed to the wrong provider. That translates to a lot of time wasted for both patients and providers alike, and it’s on therapy practices to adjust their processes to support better matchmaking.
Recognize the problem.
Patient-provider mismatches not only diminish the level of care a therapist is able to deliver, but also create some serious financial and operational problems. As a result, practices that fail to correctly match patients with the right therapists might find themselves struggling to not only retain and coordinate care for current patients, but also attract new ones.
On the flipside, correctly matching patients and providers can have positive implications for:
- Ensuring patient safety: Patient-provider mismatches can seriously affect patient safety. When a patient isn’t paired with the appropriate provider, it not only puts added stress on the patient, but also can delay his or her functional progress. So, by ensuring your practice assigns each patient the right provider at the beginning of treatment, you’re helping those patients get better faster.
- Preventing provider burnout: A mismatch can also be a result of patients being paired with providers who are already overburdened by their current workload. Some patients require extra attention or care, while others require less. As a result, even if two providers are assigned the same number of patients, one provider may require more time than the other to give each patient the necessary level of attention and care. That being said, if a particular therapist is frequently assigned patients who require more attention, it can quickly lead to burnout.
- Fostering patient loyalty: A good patient-provider match leads to better outcomes, and better outcomes lead to greater trust—which then turns into loyalty.
Create meaningful interactions.
Of course, there are times when a patient and provider just don’t see eye to eye. While personality clashes can—and do—occur, they can be remedied if the provider approaches interactions from a place of emotional intelligence and strong communication skills. According to research cited in the second edition of Health Psychology: Process and Applications by clinical psychology expert Susan P. Llewelyn, what’s often perceived as personality mismatch often boils down to a lack of communication between the respective parties. And creating meaningful, rapport-building interactions will not only reduce instances of miscommunication, but also help patients remain engaged and active in their own treatment.
Communication between patients and providers is extra effective when it extends beyond the clinic setting to keep patients engaged between appointments—by using a comprehensive patient relationship management (PRM) platform, for example.
Speaking of technology, the right software can also help you facilitate better communication among your clinical staff—which, in turn, can lead to better patient matching. Some examples include:
- Using a scheduler providers can access to view the details of new patient appointments before those appointments actually happen. That way, therapists can identify any potential mismatches before the initial exam. (Ideally, your scheduler should include patient insurance and diagnosis information.)
- Tracking patient outcomes to pinpoint providers’ strengths and assign patients accordingly.
- Monitoring patient satisfaction via Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) tracking throughout the care journey so providers can address issues before patients drop out.
- Assigning patient exercise routines via a digitized, interactive HEP platform. (This is even better if the HEP platform allows patients to communicate with providers through a mobile app.)
- Creating thorough, defensible documentation and housing it in a easy-to-use EMR. Your patient documentation should paint a complete picture of each patient’s background and treatment. (This is especially important when reactivated patients return to therapy after a period of absence, so that whoever treats the patient can continue care without repeating steps.)
Additionally, while having solid tech solutions is good, it’s even better if these solutions integrate seamlessly with your EMR. So, as you look for new software systems for your practice, make sure they hit all of the points mentioned above, and ideally, are a part of complete, all-in-one practice management solution.
Don’t forget about your Internet presence.
The way you project yourself online matters, because that’s how potential patients and referring physicians find you. (After all, before you can match the right patients to the right providers, you need to make sure you’re attracting the right patients to your practice in the first place.) That means now, more than ever, keeping the information on your website and social media pages accurate and up to date is crucial to the success of your practice. As I mentioned previously, nearly a quarter of referrals are misdirected, and nearly 50% of those misdirected patients are sent to the wrong specialist or subspecialist, according to this survey from Kyruus. That means patients have to wait even longer to access the care they really need.
Many times, this misdirection is a result of inaccurate information that referral sources and patients find on the web. Fortunately, you can easily prevent this sort of mix-up by making sure your online presence accurately reflects your—and your staff’s—specific skillset and expertise. For example, if you specialize in sports rehab, then you’ll want to make sure your website, online reviews, and social media profiles effectively communicate this to your target audience. You may want to consider tapping your most loyal patients for reviews and testimonials that speak to your skills as a sports rehab expert. (Identifying and approaching these patients is a piece of cake with PRM tools like WebPT Reach.) That way, you can be sure that the patients you attract will come to you with the kind of conditions and diagnoses that you’re best equipped to treat.
Playing matchmaker is tricky business, and unfortunately, patient-provider mismatches are all too common. This problem frequently leads to patient safety concerns, provider burnout, and a whole lot of frustration on both sides of the treatment table. Fortunately, in this age of information, it’s easier than ever to pair each patient with the right provider. Does your practice have a system for successfully matching patients and therapists? Let us know about your experiences in the comment section below!