In the words of the great William Shakespeare, “All the world's a stage; and all the men and women merely players.” Whether we’re talking about the world’s stage or an actual stage, the success of every great performance hinges on each actor’s ability to fully embrace his or her role. In the case of a rehab therapy ensemble, each role is instrumental to ensuring the success of the entire practice. And when it comes to measuring that success, patient retention can tell you a lot about the efficacy of your services as well as all-around patient satisfaction. But high-quality care isn’t the only driver of patient retention, and your providers aren’t the only ones who play a part in creating loyal clients. Front-office employees also play a vital role when it comes to turning new patients into return patients. And when you and your staff understand that role, you can breathe new life into your patient retention strategy.

The State of Rehab Therapy in 2019 - Regular BannerThe State of Rehab Therapy in 2019 - Small Banner

Setting the Stage

Many clinics are all about first impressions. But according to the peak-end rule, the first act probably isn’t the only reason patients keep returning to your clinic. If it’s been a while since you took Psych 101, here’s a refresher: the peak-end rule is a heuristic stating that individuals tend to judge an experience based on the peak and the end of the event. For therapy patients, the “peak” of a session typically occurs during a meaningful connection with the provider. The “end” usually happens at the front desk as the patient schedules his or her next appointment or makes a copayment.

So, what does all of this have to do with patient retention? While therapists are responsible for providing impactful therapy sessions, the folks at the front desk are responsible for leaving clients with a positive last impression. Don’t get me wrong—the first impression is crucial, and it sets the tone for the patient’s initial visit. But to leave patients with a great feeling between appointments—one that compels them to return for their next session—you have to give ’em a strong conclusion.

Checking Out

According to this article from Scott Hebert, the co-founder of Strive Labs, an estimated 40% of PT patients drop out of therapy before the seventh visit. Patients who recover faster than expected may account for some of those dropouts, but it’s safe to assume that most of them simply stop showing up for therapy. WebPT president and co-founder Heidi Jannenga is no stranger to this phenomenon. During her time as a clinic director, Jannenga found that her clinic’s cancellation and no-show rate had hit a staggering 87% despite high patient satisfaction ratings. To combat this, “we added a checkout step—which required patients to stop by the front desk before leaving—to our patient visit workflow,” Jannenga said. “This gave our administrative team the opportunity to review future appointments, book additional sessions if needed, and distribute reminder cards to patients.” She also notes that this process creates the perfect opportunity for front desk staff to collect missed copayments and patient satisfaction surveys.

During the checkout process, staff should also offer to send the patient an appointment reminder before his or her next visit. Studies show that appointment reminders are pretty effective when it comes to decreasing no-shows and last-minute cancellations. And as the front office person sets up the reminder, he or she should also take a moment to confirm the contact information on file, thus minimizing the risk of missed reminders or follow-up calls.

Following Up

If you think documentation is a formality exclusive to providers, think again. Keeping a clear record of cancellations and no-shows can help front office staff track patients who may be in danger of stepping out before the final curtain call. If a patient has cancelled without scheduling a future appointment, that’s a pretty good indication that he or she may not return to therapy. For some patients, receiving simple follow-up calls from the front desk is all the push they need to feel accountable.

Tracking down lost patients can be an overwhelming task. That’s why some practices develop protocols around addressing this—like choosing a set day of the week to reach out to active patients who don’t have future appointments. It’s also important to document a patient’s reason for cancelling—if he or she provides one. This helps determine which patients are truly at risk, and which ones have bowed out temporarily.

Promoting Services

Who are your clinic’s biggest fans? Aside from your most loyal patients, your most vocal supporters should be your employees. In fact, employees sometimes are your most loyal patients. In previous posts, we’ve talked about the value of cash-based services in terms of improving patient retention. If your practice offers wellness services or retail items, the front office staff should be familiar with—or even using—those offerings. That way, they can promote your products and services from a place of genuine experience. That’s not to say that you need to hire a salesperson to run your front desk, but this staff member should be well-versed in customer service basics. When staff members casually engage with patients about services and products, it not only promotes your clinic, but also creates an opportunity to build real rapport.

Of course, new business is great, but the constant churn of new patients can be draining. And depending on a clinic’s location and surrounding demographic, it may not be sustainable. Increased retention leads to increased revenue, but the responsibility to keep patients coming back doesn’t fall squarely on the therapist’s shoulders. The front office staff should be equally invested in winning over the loyalty of existing patients. When every employee in your practice commits to cultivating an amazing patient experience, the result is a devoted, engaged client base. And that alone is worthy of a standing ovation.

  • Founder Letter: 3 Ways Your Practice is Losing Money Image

    articleMay 5, 2016 | 7 min. read

    Founder Letter: 3 Ways Your Practice is Losing Money

    Much like the patients you treat, your practice can appear healthy on the outside despite significant internal issues. And when those issues are money-related, the consequences can be deadly. If your practice already is in the red, you know you’ve got some pretty serious cash flow problems. But even if you’re in the black every month, you may still be washing dollars down the drain. While there are myriad ways your practice might inadvertently be losing revenue, …

  • Get Wellness: How to Boost Your Therapy Practice’s Revenue with Cash-Based Services Image

    articleJun 14, 2017 | 5 min. read

    Get Wellness: How to Boost Your Therapy Practice’s Revenue with Cash-Based Services

    There’s a pesky rumor flying around the healthcare industry: the more successful your treatment plans, the less business you receive from your existing patients. When you get down to it, the prime directive for most rehab therapists is to improve the health of the patient until he or she no longer requires therapy. And from the patient’s perspective, the quicker his or her health improves, the happier he or she will be with your service—and that often …

  • 4 Keys to Keeping a Steady Cash Flow Image

    articleMay 18, 2016 | 5 min. read

    4 Keys to Keeping a Steady Cash Flow

    As a private practice clinic owner, you’re probably familiar with the cold sweat-inducing struggle to keep a steady cash flow. Claims management muck-ups, inefficient processes, staff issues, and lack of insight into your clinic’s financial health can leave you feeling like you’re riding a revenue rollercoaster. So, whether you’re trying to maximize reimbursements , combat employee theft , or optimize patient payments , these four keys to maintaining a steady cash flow will help you even out …

  • Therapy Practice Scheduling Hacks Image

    articleJun 26, 2017 | 6 min. read

    Therapy Practice Scheduling Hacks

    As the old saying goes, “Organization is a virtue.” Okay, maybe that’s not how it goes, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. It’s impossible to overstate the value of being organized, especially if you’re a busy clinic owner or office manager. And you probably know that the ability to keep yourself—and your schedule—well-organized is crucial. But for some folks, the constant ebb and flow of cancellations, no-shows, last-minute appointments, and documentation demands is enough to make …

  • Retention, Please: Why Patient Dropout is Killing Rehab Therapy Practices— and How to Stop It Image

    downloadApr 24, 2018

    Retention, Please: Why Patient Dropout is Killing Rehab Therapy Practices— and How to Stop It

    Patient health is the top priority for most rehab therapists—specifically, getting patients back to a level of health that allows them to do what they love. But, when patients say “sayonara” before they reach their therapy goals, they lose the opportunity to live their fullest lives. To make matters worse, the average rehab therapy practice will lose $150,000 annually due to patient dropout alone. Talk about a one-two punch to the gut. Here at WebPT, we believe …

  • Fee for All: How to Set a Rate Schedule for Your Rehab Therapy Practice Image

    articleMay 3, 2017 | 6 min. read

    Fee for All: How to Set a Rate Schedule for Your Rehab Therapy Practice

    I’m going to be frank here: setting the right fee schedule for your clinic is important—like, really, really important. Why is it such a big deal? The answer might seem obvious, but it’s actually a bit more nuanced. When new patients step into your office, you’re not just improving their day-to-day function—you’re showing them the value of their health and well-being. By seeking out movement-based therapy, patients are making an investment in their physical welfare. So, as …

  • Common Questions from Our Physical Therapy Patient Retention Webinar Image

    articleMar 28, 2018 | 12 min. read

    Common Questions from Our Physical Therapy Patient Retention Webinar

    Strive Labs co-founders Ryan Klepps and Scott Hebert recently joined WebPT president Heidi Jannenga for an insightful webinar about improving patient retention and reducing early patient drop-out. We know this is a super-relevant topic, especially because the cost of diminishing patient visits represents a $6 billion problem that not many people in the industry are talking about—at least not yet. As a result, we received a slew of great questions that we couldn’t get to live on …

  • Cashing In on Private Pay: The PT's Guide to Going Out-of-Network Image

    webinarJul 27, 2017

    Cashing In on Private Pay: The PT's Guide to Going Out-of-Network

    For many rehab therapists, submitting a claim to a third-party payer feels a lot like pulling the lever on a slot machine. You never know for sure what you’re gonna get—and most of the time, it’s less than you’d hoped for. With seemingly ever-increasing regulations—and constantly shrinking reimbursements—it’s no wonder so many PTs, OTs, and SLPs feel like the financial odds are stacked against them. [video://] As a result, more and more rehab therapy providers are trying …

  • Common Questions from Our Patient Sticker Shock Webinar Image

    articleMar 31, 2017 | 33 min. read

    Common Questions from Our Patient Sticker Shock Webinar

    From copays and deductibles to payer contracts and benefits verification, understanding all the nuances of third-party insurances is tough enough for healthcare providers—let alone their patients. In WebPT’s most recent webinar— Suppressing Sticker Shock: How to Handle Your Patients’ High-Deductible Health Plans —co-hosts Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC/L, the cofounder and president of WebPT, and WebPT CEO Nancy Ham provided a lot of great advice on how to have productive conversations about healthcare costs with your patients—without …

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