People are complicated.

Physiologically and psychologically, we are extremely complicated beings.

When I take my dog to the veterinarian, my dog doesn't care if she's the best vet in town or if that’s the kind of care all the other dogs are getting. My dog merely wants to feel better. It's easy to deliver quality care to a dog.

As therapists, we have a more difficult problem. Our dilemma, which is what makes health care so interesting, is that we're not quite sure what patients really want. Even when patients think they know what they want, they tend to add layers and layers of subtleties.

"I want to feel better so I can do the things I used to be able to do," patients tell us. As trained professionals, we spring into action—taking medical history, performing clinical exams, creating treatment plans, and so on. But that doesn't necessarily tell us what patients want or need from us.

Almost everyone who has money is privileged enough to confuse wants and needs.
-Seth Godin

What consumers truly need and value can be difficult to nail down. The value patients place on therapy mostly lies in the eye of the beholder. However, there’s new research therapists can employ to improve consumer satisfaction and loyalty.

Researchers at Stanford University have identified 30 Elements of Value that—when used in the right combination—have been shown to make people more willing to choose a particular service and thus, increase revenues. You may find the 30 Elements of Value framework to be an effective tool for improving the patient experience in your practice.

WebPT + Billing Software - Regular BannerWebPT + Billing Software - Small Banner

30 Things Consumers Really Value

Eric Almquist and his colleagues have created a conceptual model of value based on Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. They have categorized 30 fundamental elements into four kinds of needs: functional, emotional, life changing, and social impact. Similar to Maslow's pyramid of needs, these elements are arranged in an ascending order of impact.

Their research seems to indicate that—generally—the more elements you provide, the greater your consumer loyalty and revenue sustainability. In your “quest for value,” you might find the descriptions of patients’ needs helpful when it comes to differentiating your clinic from other practices. I think we all agree there is no substitute for quality care that helps patients get better. All things being equal, making value a priority in a couple of key elements can be a great growth strategy.

Overemphasis on Functional Outcomes

In rehab, there has been an emphasis on measuring functional outcomes. Somehow, it's evolved into the default standard of value. It's assumed that if we document functional improvement, then we have provided value—and thus, proven the worth of our services. Unfortunately, this diminishes the emotional and life-changing elements that often are a part of patients’ therapeutic experiences. Have we relinquished the measuring stick of our value to insurance companies? Shouldn’t we be measuring the elements at the top of the pyramid rather than focusing solely on functional elements alone?

Ultimately, it's our patients who determine the value of the care they receive from us. We shouldn't allow insurance companies to pressure us into adopting their definition of value. Instead, we need to promote the emotional and life-changing benefits of our care.

Price is what you pay, value is what you get.
-Warren Buffet

Ways to Deliver Value

There are different ways to deliver value. We, as therapists, should strive to deliver some of the higher elements on the pyramid. By tapping into some of the life-changing and social elements, we can help our patients experience breakthroughs. Here are a few practical suggestions on how to put the value elements to work for you:

Examine the 30 Elements of Value pyramid and thoughtfully write down the answers to these questions:

  1. Identify your top three core values that originate from your mission statement. Focus on your strengths. Avoid the temptation to work on several elements at the same time.
    1. Functional: What do we help people do?
    2. Emotional: How does it make people feel?
    3. Life-Changing: How does it change people's lives
    4. Social Impact: What value do we add to society?
  2. Emulate successful companies. Don't limit your research to healthcare companies like WebMD or CVS Health; instead, explore companies like Fitbit or Amazon. Learn how they use the elements to generate consumer satisfaction and loyalty.
  3. Don't focus solely on functional needs. To offer life-changing experiences and maximize social impact, you should target elements near the top of the pyramid.
  4. Setting yourself apart from the competition by providing "better" care is not enough. Proving better value means delivering tangible results.


For example, your clinic might initially focus on simplifying and connecting by providing online intake forms and a welcome video—all with a goal of fostering a remarkable patient onboarding experience.

You may want to plan celebrations—and offer and gifts—when patients graduate from therapy (thus fulfilling the “fun/entertainment” and “rewards me” elements) and transition into your group wellness programs (which aligns with the “motivation” and “affiliation & belonging” elements). Exploring the many elements of value could open your eyes to the remarkable ways in which you meet your patients’ deepest needs.

Value-added services eventually prove their effectiveness by increasing patient satisfaction, customer loyalty, and revenues. Thus, incorporating more elements of value into your practice works when leaders make value a priority and use it as a part of a long-term growth strategy.

Finding out what patients really want doesn't have to be akin to solving a great mystery. The 30 Elements of Value make it much easier to flesh out—and meet—the emotional and psychological needs of your patients. And that, in turn, can help you creatively add to the value you already provide.

Paul Potter is a physical therapist and mentor who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, who is also a therapist. They have four daughters. For more than 35 years, he successfully managed his own private practice. He now shares his knowledge and experience through teaching and mentoring therapists who want to have their own practices. His website., helps therapists achieve professional and financial freedom. Connect with Paul on his website or on LinkedIn.




  • Knock Out Patient Dropout: 8 Ways to Increase Retention and Revenue Image

    webinarFeb 12, 2018

    Knock Out Patient Dropout: 8 Ways to Increase Retention and Revenue

    In one corner, we have a highly skilled rehab therapy provider known for delivering amazing clinical outcomes through noninvasive, movement-based treatment. And in the other corner, we have a discouraged, disengaged patient whose quality of life has taken a major hit due to musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction. If you’re a rehab therapy provider, you’ve probably seen this battle play out more times than you can count—and we’re betting that more often than not, your therapy care right …

  • Common Questions from Our Stalled Patient Progress Webinar Image

    articleFeb 7, 2018 | 9 min. read

    Common Questions from Our Stalled Patient Progress Webinar

    Earlier this week, Dr. Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC/L, the president and co-founder of WebPT, teamed up with Charlotte Bohnett, WebPT’s director of demand generation, to host a webinar on common barriers to patient progress —and strategies for overcoming them. During the question-and-answer portion of the presentation, we received quite a few audience questions on the nuances of fostering patient engagement and moving patients toward their therapy goals as efficiently as possible. We’ve compiled the most frequently …

  • Stalled Out: 5 Reasons Your Patients Aren't Progressing (and What to Do About Them) Image

    webinarDec 22, 2017

    Stalled Out: 5 Reasons Your Patients Aren't Progressing (and What to Do About Them)

    If life is a highway, then it’s a wild, bumpy one. And while our patients want to ride it (all night long), with all those twists, turns, and potholes, they’re bound to get banged up. Fortunately, you’re here to help get them back in top form. But, helping patients achieve their goals is hard work—for you and for them—and while everyone strives to be a Ferrari, it’s common to plateau at Pinto. And that’s when the risk …

  • Combatting Payment Fatigue: How to Increase Revenue Without Haggling with Payers Image

    articleMay 31, 2016 | 9 min. read

    Combatting Payment Fatigue: How to Increase Revenue Without Haggling with Payers

    For PT practice owners, finding ways to increase topline revenue can be challenging. While there are a number of strategies for growing your practice, your success ultimately hinges on accomplishing at least one of the following: Getting paid more for the services you provide. Getting more patients in the door. Keeping patients from dropping out early. For many practices—especially newer and smaller clinics—it’s easy to get stuck on the first one and forget about the second two. …

  • Think Big, Think Differently: 6 Bits of Inspiration from Ascend 2017 Image

    articleOct 5, 2017 | 11 min. read

    Think Big, Think Differently: 6 Bits of Inspiration from Ascend 2017

    The overarching theme of Ascend 2017 —the fourth-annual installment of rehab therapy’s premier business summit—was, quite simply, “Think big.” But, based on what we learned from our esteemed group of speakers over the course of two inspiration-filled days in Washington, DC, a more accurate tagline for this year’s conference might have been, “Think differently.” After all, in a field as complex as health care, grand aspirations are not enough. To solve the problems plaguing this industry, we …

  • How Does Telehealth Affect Patient Engagement? Image

    articleOct 21, 2015 | 3 min. read

    How Does Telehealth Affect Patient Engagement?

    It’s safe to say that  telehealth is a big trend in health care . In fact, the American Medical Association (AMA)  announced this month  that it’s developing a workgroup of more than 50 healthcare experts to “take part in integrating new telehealth technologies and products into the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT®) coding system.” That’s a pretty big deal, but it comes as no surprise, as telehealth  continues to evolve  and pervade the healthcare industry. Based on a  …

  • Popping the Question: Patient Engagement and Why It Matters Image

    articleOct 6, 2015 | 3 min. read

    Popping the Question: Patient Engagement and Why It Matters

    As a physical therapist, you love your patients—but what are you doing to prove it? It’s great that your services help patients get back on their feet, but outcomes alone won’t build your relationship—or your revenue stream. It’s time to take this to the next level: patient engagement. While it doesn’t require you to buy jewelry or rest on bended knee, like a good proposal, patient engagement should be thoughtful and sincere. What? Not sure what I …

  • The PT Patient's Guide to Understanding Insurance Image

    downloadApr 3, 2017

    The PT Patient's Guide to Understanding Insurance

    Patients are shouldering a greater portion of their healthcare costs than ever before. But when they don’t know the specifics of their coverage, they can end up with much bigger bills than they bargained for—and that often leads to unpaid balances and unfinished treatment plans. Bring them up to speed—and improve your practice’s collections and patient retention—with this guide. Patients will learn: What it means for a service to be “covered.” How to define common insurance terms. …

  • How to Spend Your Clinic’s Marketing Dollars for Maximum Returns Image

    articleAug 17, 2016 | 11 min. read

    How to Spend Your Clinic’s Marketing Dollars for Maximum Returns

    As author and marketing guru Seth Godin says, “In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.” If you want to stand out in the rehab therapy marketplace—and potentially grow your clinic—then spending money on marketing is essential. But, to ensure a maximum return on investment, you’ve got to carve out—and carefully manage—your physical therapy clinic’s budget. Knowing where to put those dollars can …

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