Earlier this year, WebPT conducted a survey to gain a better understanding of the state of the rehab therapy industry—and we were thrilled to receive more than 5,200 complete responses from rehab therapy professionals across the country. With this type of large-scale data collection and analysis, we’ve been able to produce a comprehensive snapshot of the rehab therapy industry’s demographics, trends, frustrations, and motivations, all of which shape the industry’s future outlook and potential for success in the new era of healthcare. In short, we met our goal with this survey, and it was a rollicking success. More than that, though, the information we’ve collected has helped us design our educational content to ensure we’re addressing the things that matter most to industry professionals—including current issues in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology.

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Assessing the Threats

Case in point: We can now use our very own data to help you fight the top three threats facing PTs, OTs, and SLPs today, namely:

  1. Declining reimbursements,
  2. Insurance regulations, and
  3. Government regulations.

Survey Data

More than 75% of all survey-takers ranked these options in their top five—and that did not vary significantly based on individual role, employee count, or practice setting. In other words, we can be quite sure that these threats are actually impacting rehab therapists across the board. Not surprisingly—at least not to those of us who have been following the healthcare reform saga for the last several years—these threats are all tied to reform and regulatory efforts. With that in mind, here are eight things you can do to face ’em down—and come out on top:

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1. Get involved.

It’s easy to bemoan the status quo—I mean, we’ve all been there, complaining about something without doing anything about it—but that’s not an effective strategy for enacting real change. Thus, it’s imperative that PTs, OTs, and SLPs get involved in advocacy efforts at the local, state, and national levels. That’s the only way to ensure that pro-therapy legislation gets the attention and support it needs to be pushed through to adoption.

2. Own your value.

We’ve been talking about this for a while now, but it’s definitely still relevant: PTs, OTs, and SLPs could use some branding help. As of now, many patients—and even other healthcare professionals—don’t know what you do or what you’re capable of. So, speak up. Be loud and proud of who you are and how you bring value to those your serve. Celebrate patient wins with testimonials; post videos when appropriate; and develop an active online and social media presence chock-full of valuable content. (Just make sure you’re doing all of that in full compliance with HIPAA.)

3. Collect and use data.

Anecdotal evidence of your value is great, but it only goes so far. To solidify the value of the rehab industry in this new value-driven healthcare environment, all therapists must contribute to the data cause by collecting, using, and communicating outcomes data and patient satisfaction data. There’s power in numbers, and the more therapy providers we have adding data to the pot, the better we can prove the efficacy of rehab therapy treatment—and the more power you’ll have with the payers, government agencies, and patient-consumers who influence your success.

4. Market better.

Once you’ve identified your value—and can substantiate that claim with data—it’s time to use that information to bolster your marketing efforts. It’s crucial to ensure that you’re using the right channels to promote your services—and leveraging those channels to their full potential. That requires quite a bit of conscious thought. Plus, with some form of direct access now available across the country, rehab therapists should be marketing their services to both referrers and patients. And those are two very different audiences with different wants and needs. To reach them, you must tailor your marketing messages to match.

5. Be bold.

It’s about time that rehab therapists stepped up as peers to other medical professionals. Sure, it might be uncomfortable at first, but owning your value and exuding confidence is the only way to convince the rest of the healthcare community that you deserve a seat at the primary care coordinator table. So, step outside of your comfort zone, be bold, and spend time with orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, and other physicians. While you’re there, communicate the value of rehab therapy and listen to their pain points—you might just learn a thing or two about how to work together to better serve your patients.

6. Collaborate—don’t compete.

Rehab therapists are an amazing group of people who—generally speaking—want to make a positive impact on their patients and the world (hello, Rehab Therapists Give Back). So, let’s stop thinking of one another as “the enemy.” It’s time to focus on collaboration, not competition—unification, not division. And that mindset extends beyond fellow therapists to providers of other disciplines. They’re under the same pressure as therapists, so banding together for the good of all just makes sense. When you combine forces—by forming a business or referral partnership (or just by learning from one another, as I mentioned above)—you can help each other succeed. Plus, patients want connected care teams.

7. Buck traditions.

The traditional insurance-based revenue model is no longer as fruitful as it once was for providers. Thus, PTs, OTs, and SLPs should explore alternative revenue streams and business models. If you’re not ready to adopt a full cash-based clinic model, you could add cash-based services to your repertoire to alleviate your dependency on third-party payers, including Medicare. You could also explore opportunities to participate in alternative payment models or bundles, such as the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) model. The writing's on the wall that fee-for-service payment models aren’t sustainable in the current healthcare landscape, which means we’re going to see more and more payers shifting to these new reimbursement structures.  

8. Leverage new technologies.

We’re avid proponents of using technology to ensure your business is running smoothly and your payments are maximized—that way, you can spend more time focusing on your patients. Well, we’re also huge fans of leveraging new technology—such as telerehab—to improve clinical outcomes and patient access to care, which in turn can increase your client base and revenue stream. However, in order to truly capitalize on these new advancements, therapists must get involved in advocacy efforts to ensure they can use this technology to its fullest—and get paid when doing so.

There you have it: eight ways to fight the top three threats facing PTs, OTs, and SLPs today—and they’re all doable. However, as Heidi and Chris Powell advised at this year’s Ascend event, if you’re looking to make a change—whether that be adopting one of the strategies above or becoming a better leader—it’s often best to start with one thing at a time. Then, when that one thing becomes a habit, you can add another to your plate.

If you’d like to learn more about the State of the Rehab Therapy Industry report, you can watch this complimentary webinar in which WebPT’s co-founder and president Heidi Jannenga and CEO Nancy Ham discuss the results in depth. Then, check out the answers to the most frequently asked post-webinar questions here.

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