It’s an unfortunate fact, but insurance reimbursements for physical therapy services aren’t what they should be, which means the profit margin for many private practice physical therapists isn’t what it should be either. But there’s no cause for alarm—yet—because there are two things you can do to ensure your business is successful despite shrinking or stagnant payments: increase the efficiency of your billing process and your clinic. WebPT writer Brooke Andrus covered the former here, so today, we’re going to cover the latter.
As this article points out, the first step in any improvement plan is to identify your baseline. So, before you implement any potential strategies, measure where you are right now. That way, you’ll be able to quickly identify which techniques are effective for your practice as well as quantify just how effective they are. With that in mind, here are four ways to increase the efficiency of your clinic (adapted from the source cited above):
1. Boost Conversions
In other words, get more leads (potential patients) to not only schedule an initial evaluation, but actually complete one.
To get your baseline, take a look at how many potential patients call, email, or use social media to request additional information about your services. Then count how many patients schedule an initial evaluation and how many actually attend that appointment. From this information, you’ll be able to identify the point at which you’re losing patients—and implement strategies to get them back.
Physical therapist Jerry Durham tells an interesting story here about a physical therapist who caught a prospective patient as she was leaving his clinic after requesting some initial information from his front office staff. The PT told the woman his value statement—that “his clinic sees patients one on one with no double booking”—and she went back to the front desk to schedule her first appointment. Apparently, the front office staff didn’t even know about the clinic’s value statement, and thus wasn’t able to use it to convert the prospective patient into an actual one. Durham asked the therapist to think about how many times a situation like this probably happens in a day and posed the question: “how many times can your practice afford to have that happen?” The moral of this story: ensure that everyone who represents your practice knows your value statement and is implementing it effectively to generate new business.
2. Minimize Bailouts
Getting your patients to attend their initial evaluation is only the first step. To maximize the relationship—that is, help them recover and get paid for it—you’ve got to convince your patients that it’s in their best interest to return and complete their entire course of treatment. And a lot of that depends on the strength of the relationship you build. (For more on the importance of building relationships, check out this post by Ann Wendel, PT.)
To get a handle on bailouts, review the average number of visits you typically prescribe. Then calculate the percentage of patients who complete their entire plan of care and the percentage of patients who complete only a fraction of it. If most of your patients aren’t anywhere near finishing treatment when they disappear on you, you know you’ve got some work to do.
3. Monitor Patient Satisfaction
How happy your patients are with your services is a huge indicator of how likely they are to make and keep their appointments—and to tell their friends about you.
With that in mind, it’s imperative to get an accurate gauge of patient satisfaction, and that means measuring it at various points throughout treatment, not just at the end. As the author of this article points out, “If you’re only gauging patient satisfaction at discharge, you’re collecting heavily biased data: the only people you’re surveying have completed their entire course of care (and thus likely bought into your value proposition early on). This leads to extremely high satisfaction scores, many pats on the back, and absolutely zero actionable data.” So, measure patient satisfaction throughout the experience—and ensure you’re asking specific questions to identify specific areas for improvement.
For more information on the little things you can do to boost patient satisfaction, check out this article.
4. Increase Staff Buy-In
It’s great that you want to improve your clinic’s efficiency, but you won’t be able to change diddly squat unless everyone in your practice has the same goals (see the cautionary example from Jerry Durham above). Before you start any new initiative, communicate your plan to your staff so everyone understands how the end results will benefit the practice as a whole as well as each person individually. That way, they’ll be more likely to fulfill their roles and responsibilities, so you all can succeed together.
Looking for more on how to generate staff buy-in? The steps we’ve outlined here to pitch an EMR apply in this situation, too:
- Tailor the benefits.
- Don’t over-promise.
- Facilitate open dialogue.
There’s a lot you can do to combat shrinking reimbursements. You’ve just got think outside the fighting-with-the-insurance-company box. What strategies have you implemented in your practice to improve your bottom line? Share them in the comments section below.