Last week, the Wynn Las Vegas was abuzz with more than the whir of spinning reels and the jangle of noisy slot machines. That’s because, amidst the usual cheers and chimes of a casino floor, more than 1,000 private practice leaders, vendors, students, and other professionals came together to share and learn advice for private practice success during PPS 2016. Throughout all of the sessions I attended, I noticed one centralized theme: it’s going to take more than luck to secure the future success of the PT profession. So, how will we get there? I’m putting my money on these five PPS 2016 takeaways:

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1. Stop Talking—and Start Taking Action

Okay, Elvis wasn’t crooning about the PT industry when he sang, “a little less conversation, a little more action.” But, this famous lyric perfectly sums up many of the underlying themes that pervaded PPS. As Ann Rhoades said in her keynote presentation, “It doesn’t matter what you say; it matters how you behave.” This concept applies to all aspects of private practice. Whether you’re hiring employees or making decisions about getting involved in the PT-PAC or your local chapter of the APTA, it’s not enough to talk about change. You have to act on those intentions.

2. Focus on People

From shouldering regulatory burdens and suffering ever-declining reimbursements to dealing with coding complexities and avoiding audit threats, it’s easy for therapists to get caught up in all of the “stuff” they have to do. But something that came up in almost every session at PPS is how important it is for therapists to continue focusing on their patients—as whole people (not solely with respect to their diagnoses or clinical outcomes). When you see your patients as people—and put in the effort to measure their loyalty and satisfaction—you’ll gain valuable insight into your business. Why? Because your patients are your customers, and the more you know about them, the more you’ll know about the true health of your business.

3. Be Proactive

I was lucky enough to hear a group of private practice therapists and owners discuss the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement Model (CJR) and how their practices are participating in this model. During the interactive session, Rich Hoffman, PT, MedDiagnostics Rehab President and CEO, explained how his clinic got involved in the care of CJR patients soon after the model was introduced. In doing so, he’s discovered opportunities to help patients get better faster, earned more referrals from surgeons, and positioned his therapists as the primary care providers for patients undergoing joint replacement surgery. Instead of resisting the new system, he capitalized on the opportunity to be proactive about payment reform and empower his therapists to take the lead. He explained that he’s made “the ceiling the floor”—and in doing so, he’s reaping the benefits of taking early action.

The same approach applies to any given care episode—not just bundled payment scenarios. For example, in his session about low back pain, Jerry Durham, PT, explained that at some point, 80% of Americans will experience back pain. And that presents therapists with a huge opportunity to educate all of their patients about the benefits of seeing a physical therapist first if and when they experience back pain. In other words, therapists shouldn’t wait until their patients are already in pain to tout the healing power of PT; by then, it could be too late—patients could have already sought out other sources of relief. This is just one more scenario in which it’s vitally important that therapists embrace a proactive—rather than reactive—mindset. That way, when the time comes (i.e., when a patient does experience back pain), he or she can make an informed decision and see a therapist first—depending on the level of direct access available in that patient's state.

4. Get Out of the Dark Ages

Here at WebPT, we’ve been talking about the importance of tracking outcomes data for quite a while now. And I was happy to see that many—if not all—of the sessions touched on this hot topic. In his data-focused presentation, Ben Barron of ProEx Physical Therapy reminded the crowd that “if you’re not using outcomes, or you’re on paper, you’re in the dark ages.” In other words, tracking outcomes data is no longer optional. You’ll absolutely need this type of quality data to prove your value—especially when it comes time to negotiate your payer contracts. And as we continue to make the transition from fee-for-service to pay-for-performance, the more outcomes data each therapist—and the industry overall—has, the better.

5. Embrace—and Demand—Better Data

Speaking of data: in the past, rehab therapy professionals could get by on “gut feelings.” Maybe you felt like your patient volume was increasing—and that those patients were achieving positive outcomes and demonstrating high satisfaction levels. But those days are over; feelings are no longer reliable indicators of success. Practices now have access to business analytics and data; and it’s time to embrace that. As Barron explained during his session, Forbes reported that a “10% increase of data accessibility can bring in more than $60,000 in revenue.” That’s a lot of revenue potential for such a small increase in data availability.

Keep in mind, though, that simply having data isn’t enough. If you want to leverage your data to improve performance, you have to use it in a meaningful way. Furthermore, you have to ensure the integrity of your data—which is why the profession as whole needs to unite in its effort to generate better, cleaner data. To do that, they’ll need the right technology. That’s why WebPT has totally revamped its analytics suite (which we were proud to introduce it at PPS).

The physical therapy industry has a lot of chips on the table. But as I learned at PPS 2016, when it comes to achieving success in the future healthcare world, data is your safest bet.

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