Those of you who have been in the rehab therapy business for a while have seen first-hand how much the industry has changed over the last few decades. Back when I first started practicing—more than 15 years ago—we were working in a very corporate-dominated environment. Many of the small, independent, “mom and pop” practices had fallen victim to therapy giants like HealthSouth and NovaCare.
However, when the economy tanked in the early 2000s, so did many of the top dogs. It wasn’t pretty. Bankruptcy and dissolution headlines splashed across the business pages of major newspapers as did reports of Medicare fraud and therapists cheating both the system and their patients. It was a PR nightmare and a serious low point for our profession.
But as an industry, we bounced back—and this time, we did things differently. The corporate backlash swung the pendulum back to an emphasis on providing exemplary patient care and gave independent private practices an opportunity to shine. The direct access movement further strengthened the viability of small therapy practices. It was an amazing shift—for us and for our patients. But it didn’t last long.
Today, with the combined pressure of strict documentation standards, ever-increasing regulations, and declining reimbursements, the pendulum is starting to swing back in the other direction. There’s a lot of chatter about consolidation, mergers, and acquisitions. Small therapy practice owners are struggling—struggling to communicate the value of their services, struggling to educate themselves on the changing regulations, struggling to stay afloat. And so, they’re considering giving up. Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to throw in the towel—and you shouldn’t. But old ways of thinking and antiquated business practices must change. Rehab therapy isn’t going away; in fact, I believe it will only become more important, and rightly so, as the US continues to reform health care. We’re at a formative time in our industry right now, a time where we can ensure that private practice not only endures, but flourishes. But to do that, we need to be smarter, more agile, and more business savvy.
That’s why we’re focusing this month on clinic management best practices. We have the opportunity to create a competitive advantage for our industry that will outlast any changes that come our way—and it all starts with awareness, education, and dedication. It starts with us as therapists taking on the challenge of change and seeing the potential for great opportunities. Are you with me?