Physician-owned physical therapy services (POPTS) get a bad rap in the private practice world. After all, many independent PTs blame them for dwindling referrals and revenues. But, those physicians are doing what every healthcare provider is doing in this challenging healthcare environment: trying to take over the world. Just kidding—trying to remain profitable by adding additional revenue streams that benefit their patients. So, rather than complain about what others are doing—and what is and isn’t fair—PTs might want to consider taking a page from the POPTS book and adding additional revenue streams to their own practices. Here are a few ways to do just that:
Partner with other providers.
As I wrote here, there’s good reason to consider partnering with non-PT providers. After all, the health and wellness industry is booming. In fact, according to the Global Wellness Institute, it’s a $3.7 trillion market, globally. That’s huge. And because physical therapists treat holistically, they’re uniquely well-positioned to offer complementary services that support a patient’s overall health and wellness journey, either beyond—or in conjunction with—PT. If you’re wondering which non-PT providers you could partner with, here are a handful I wrote about in greater depth here:
- Teachers and Trainers: Pilates, Yoga, Fitness
- Therapists and Counselors: Massage, CranioSacral, Nutritionist
- Alternative Practitioners: Reiki, Ayurvedic, Traditional Chinese Medicine/Acupuncture
- Other medical professionals: Psychologists, Medical Doctors, Chiropractors, Naturopaths
Make it a culture match.
No matter who you decide to partner with, though, remember: it’s crucial that you both have similar practice philosophies regardless of your specialities (according to us and the author of this article, that is). It’ll make all the difference to your patients, your staff, and your business that you only bring in someone who shares your perspective on everything from patient care and marketing to billing and compliance. In fact, we recommend using the same primary strategy for hiring a new therapist that you do to bring in a new partner: focus on culture first.
Add extra services.
If you’d rather expand your service offerings by providing wellness or fitness services yourself, you can certainly do so—assuming, of course, that you remain compliant with your state practice act as well as the terms outlined in your insurance policies. As Kylie McKee pointed out in this blog post, it’s also a good idea to consider the image that you’re presenting by offering ancillary—a.k.a. “less doctor-y”—services. After all, she wrote, “during [last] year’s Graham Sessions, one attendee argued that when PTs provide wellness services, they are actually devaluing physical therapy as a profession, because they are straying away from therapists’ primary objective: restoring physical function.” But that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case if you’re practicing at the top of your license—and the services you offer align with your brand and further solidify your value.
Identify what your current patients need.
To determine which wellness offerings will provide the greatest benefit to your patients and your business, ask yourself what your patients need most during treatment—and after discharge. As McKee notes in this article, that could mean implementing “a diabetic-specific exercise program” if you see “a significant number of diabetic patients.” After all, these “specialty services [will] improve your patients’ wellbeing [and] help foster those patients’ loyalty when it comes to all wellness-related needs.” Here are some other cash-based services you could consider providing:
- medically oriented gym memberships and weight loss programs;
- fitness classes like yoga, dance, Pilates, and barre;
- athletic performance coaching; and
- gait training.
Expand a niche.
As I wrote here, the American Board of Physical Therapist Specialists reported that more than 18,000 physical therapists demonstrated the necessary skills and clinical knowledge to receive specialist certification in their niche area of practice. And that was back in 2016. There are a lot of reasons to go niche, including that it’s a great way to “differentiate yourself from your competition” and “take advantage of a gap in service offerings in your region.” Additionally, choosing a niche can help you “better define your brand and marketing strategies, so you can more specifically target and appeal to your ideal clients.” It also makes total sense if you’ve become—or have a desire to become—an expert “in a particular field and thus prefer to only treat within that field.”
Maintain your competitive advantage.
While you might assume that going niche would limit the number of patients you see, it can have the opposite effect. After all, patients with specific or complicated conditions are more likely to seek out an expert than a generalist who may or may not have experience with their issue. Thus, you could easily become the very best physical therapist in your area that treats, say, athletes with shoulder issues—and you could attract those patients from across the state and the country. That being said, if you’ve gone niche, you may want to consider expanding your focus to include a slightly more diverse population—while still maintaining your competitive advantage. To continue the above example, if you primarily work with professional athletes, you could target high school, collegiate, or olympic-level athletes. Or, if a number of your patients come in with both shoulder and elbow injuries, you may want to start training to treat elbow injuries as well.
Market, market, market.
Marketing is a form of sales, and sales can be challenging for physical therapy providers—especially those who shy away from their position as businesspeople. Yet, it’s a necessity. After all, the current rise in consolidation is making it nearly impossible to survive—let alone thrive—relying solely on referrals from physicians. Thus, all physical therapy providers must not only up their marketing game in general, but also extend it to reach patients directly where they’re already researching their healthcare options: online. With some form of direct access now available across the US, there’s no better time to start establishing your value with patients.
Reach patients first.
Some states do still have restrictions in place that require patients to obtain a prescription from a physician before actually receiving treatment from a physical therapist (although a qualified physical therapist in any state can, at the very least, provide an initial evaluation without a physician referral). But, providers in those states should still market to patients first, because patients are taking a more active role in their care—not to mention footing a larger portion of their bill. Thus, they’re more likely to be doing their own research before setting foot in an MD’s office—if they ever get there at all. If you’re able to reach patients first, you can determine whether physical therapy is the appropriate next step in their care journey. If it is, you can either proceed with treatment or refer the patient to a PT-friendly physician in your network and then proceed with treatment, depending on the laws governing your state. Either way, the patient receives the care he or she needs—first. And we all know how effective physical therapy can be as a first-line treatment intervention.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” While we’re not recommending that you join a POPT unless one is calling your name, we will encourage you to adopt the same basic strategy in a way that could bolster your own practice. Given that 90% of adults who could benefit from seeing a physical therapist never do, I’d say there are more than enough potential patients to go around—if you know how to educate them on the benefits of your services, that is.