Many practices employ physical therapy techs to help progress patients through their in-clinic exercises when a therapist has multiple patients in the office at the same time. While techs can help enable therapists to manage larger patient loads—thereby improving patient access to care and increasing revenue for the business—there may be a cost associated with this common business practice. And that’s especially true if your techs aren’t practicing at the top of their game. In fact, passing off a patient to a subpar tech could damage an otherwise pleased patient’s experience with your practice on the whole. With that in mind, here are three ways your PT support staff could be ruining the patient experience:
1. Not being friendly or professional.
Everyone on your staff should be both friendly and professional—a representative of your brand and your core values at all times. The best way to ensure this is the case is to hire for cultural fit—not for speed, price, or convenience. If you plan to turn a patient over to someone else in your clinic—whether that be another PT, a tech, or an assistant—you better be sure that person will provide a level of quality that meets (or exceeds) your standards. After all, no one wants to pay for services administered by a grump—or someone who easily gets distracted chatting with other staff members. And with patients footing a greater portion of their healthcare costs, an even exchange of value is of paramount importance.
2. Displaying a lack of familiarity with the prescribed exercises.
If you send your patient to complete his or her exercises with a tech, then that tech better be more than familiar with those exercises—and able to read the flowsheet without having to flag you down for assistance. Otherwise, you risk creating a situation in which the patient believes he or she would be better off working alone or with the help of a YouTube video—anything besides working with a less-than-knowledgeable tech who could at best waste that patient's time and at worst cause an injury. That’s a quick way to diminish the value of your services in the eyes of your patients. Instead, you should be vetting your techs thoroughly during the interview process—as well as providing comprehensive training and assessment to ensure your techs have not only the knowledge necessary to explain and demonstrate the exercises you prescribe, but also the opportunity to ask you questions about those exercises before working with a patient.
While you’re at it, you may also want to consider providing digital flowsheets instead of handwritten ones. This could be a big help to your techs as they run patients through particularly challenging sets—especially if your handwriting is tough to read.
3. Failing to follow through.
No one wants to be left hanging—and that’s especially true for physical therapy patients waiting to get on with their exercise program. Thus, it’s imperative for whoever is guiding your patients through their exercises to stay focused—and to avoid going off to check on other patients without checking back in. Clear communication is paramount to ensuring patients feel well-cared-for—and that’s a huge component of a positive patient experience. We all know how important patient engagement is to stellar outcomes—but your patients are taking cues from you and your staff. If not everyone on your team is engaged, chances are good your patients won’t be either.
While relying on techs for support may be necessary to get all of your patients in the door—and to generate enough revenue to remain in business—patients may be expecting to work with their PT while they’re in the office. Thus, it’s best to set clear expectations from the beginning—and explain the benefit of having PT support staff available. On top of that, be sure you’re only hiring the best—and that goes for any position you’re trying to fill. That way, your patients will receive the very best care regardless of who provides it.