It’s no secret that our healthcare model is a bit, well, broken—for lack of a better term. Patients often have to wait weeks or months to gain access to providers—long enough for conditions to move from acute to chronic. The good news is that there are plenty of alternative practice models clinicians are adopting in order to meet patients’ demands for high-quality, convenient care. Concierge medicine is one of those models; it’s becoming very popular in the general healthcare space, and it’s even making its way into the physical therapy arena. If you’re wondering what, exactly, concierge medicine is (and how it works in PT), then you’re in the right place! Let’s delve into the wonderful world of concierge physical therapy.

The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018 - Regular BannerThe State of Rehab Therapy in 2018 - Small Banner

What is concierge medicine?

Before we get into the specifics of concierge PT, let’s discuss the basics of concierge medicine. Essentially, it’s a cash-based healthcare model involving customized delivery and payment methods. The most popular type of concierge model features subscription-based pricing, meaning that in exchange for paying a monthly or annual fee, patients receive unlimited access to a provider’s services.

Another somewhat common option is to offer package deals, kind of like the ones you’d see at a yoga studio or rock climbing gym. For example, a clinician might offer five or 10 visits for a set price, rather than an unlimited subscription package. Savvy providers will often construct packages around commonly seen conditions.

Where does concierge PT fit in?

Concierge PT is similar to traditional concierge medicine in that depending on the provider, patients can join practices as subscription-based members or opt to pay for special packages. Similarly, it’s up to the physical therapist who runs the concierge practice to decide on a business/payment structure. A sports PT might offer a special 15-visit ACL recovery package for patients rehabbing after ACL reconstruction surgery. A PT who specializes in geriatrics, on the other hand, might encourage a patient with multiple chronic medical conditions to attend therapy on a subscription basis.

Download your 2019 State of Rehab Therapy report now.

Enter your email address below, and we’ll send you a free comprehensive report on the trends shaping the future of the industry.

Please enable JavaScript to submit form.

What are the benefits of running a concierge PT practice?

The growth of the concierge trend is due in large part to the many benefits if affords providers and patients alike.

Provider Benefits

Financial Stability

One of the obvious reasons providers opt for a subscription model is that it’s often more profitable than a traditional setup. By eliminating insurance companies from the mix, therapists can charge what they wish (and what the market will support). Compared to a traditional cash-based practice model, a subscription-based model also offers a more reliable income stream.

Scheduling Flexibility

Providers can also choose to offer hours that accommodate their specific patient populations. Young parents, adolescents, busy professionals, and older adults all might have very different appointment time preferences, and a concierge model enables the clinician to run the business around target patients’ schedules.

Concierge PTs can also incorporate group treatment sessions into their programs to encourage camaraderie and community healing—or offer wellness services to ensure healthier patients still feel they’re getting their money’s worth.

Dr. Elizabeth Brewer, PT, DPT, founder of Elizabeth Brewer Physical Therapy, chose a concierge mobile therapy model because she wanted to create more convenient option for active adults in the Hampton Roads, VA area. Many of Dr. Brewer’s patients are constantly going to doctor’s appointments for pain relief—and are looking for a way to avoid injections and surgeries. She noticed that these types of patients tend to forego PT because they feel it’s too inconvenient to attend on top of their other appointments. By taking her practice on the road and providing several payment options—she offers five-, eight-, and 12-visit packages—Dr. Brewer eliminates the perceived barriers that might otherwise keep her patients from receiving therapy.

Industry Visibility

Furthermore, as WebPT’s Kylie McKee pointed out in a recent blog post, these types of concierge setups are great for the PT profession on the whole, as they “help foster the perception of PTs as primary care providers.”

Patient Benefits

Personalized Care

There are numerous benefits to patients who sign up for concierge PT. For instance, if a patient wants PT intervention in preparation for an upcoming surgery, insurance may or may not cover those prehabilitation (sometimes called prehab) services. Concierge PT eliminates the stress of worrying about insurance coverage, enabling patients to receive all sorts of pre-op interventions—including strengthening, bed mobility exercises, patient education, and environmental preparations.

Plus, concierge models often enable patients to schedule appointments at favorable treatment times, and those patients typically receive:

  • 100% one-on-one care,
  • Treatment sessions long enough to see results quickly,
  • Easy scheduling, and
  • The ability to quickly reach providers with questions.
Cost Predictability

This model is especially appealing for patients who enjoy on-demand care—as well as those who have become frustrated by insurance-based limitations or have conditions that frequently require new prescriptions to address new body parts. For those with high-deductible insurance plans or plans with very little PT coverage, concierge services can sometimes wind up costing the same or—in a handful of cases—even less than going through insurance.

Unmatched Convenience

And, for patients like the ones who see Dr. Brewer, the luxury of a mobile therapist meeting them at their own homes is priceless. Not only is the care attentive and private, but it also eliminates the need for them to make the (sometimes painful) commute to attend PT at a traditional clinic.

What are the drawbacks to concierge and subscription-based PT?

As appealing as concierge PT is, there are some drawbacks.

Increased Patient Dependance

PTs have always struggled to find a healthy balance between encouraging patients to see us when they need us, and empowering those patients to take control of their own well-being. In a recent blog post on The Manual Therapist, Dr. Aaron LeBauer, PT, DPT, LMPT, RYT, makes the argument that subscription-based models can inadvertently cause patients to become more reliant on PTs, rather than leading those patients to take their health into their own hands. He recommends carefully wording your value proposition to lean away from touting unlimited treatment, instead highlighting perks like:

  • Preferred appointment times;
  • Increased access to clinicians;
  • Annual checkups (or quarterly screens); and
  • Additional specific items that would likely never be covered by insurance, such as free group classes and performance enhancement programs.
Legal Liability

He also points out that knowing your state’s practice act is key to ensuring that you practice legally. While all 50 states do offer some degree of direct access to PTs, certain states are more lax about physician referrals than others, and different states have different rules about PTs providing wellness services.

For instance, many states require that PTs receive authorization or certification by an MD before beginning a course of treatment, but because wellness services do not require physician sign-offs, a subscription model can create some dangerous blurring of lines. LeBauer points out that if your state has limited or restricted direct access, you’re responsible for staying on top of obtaining physician signatures as the state dictates. He even suggests working in partnership with a physician who “believes in your philosophy and who is actually hungry for new patients.” He believes this is a win-win setup that can eliminate some of the hassles a subscription model would cause in those limited-access states.

Another consideration to keep in mind is that cash-based practice models can be particularly inhibitive to providers who contract with Medicare. Because Medicare prohibits providers for collecting cash for medically necessary covered services, an unlimited or subscription-based model could inadvertently land clinicians in legal hot water if they aren’t paying attention to what’s covered—and what’s not.

Clearly, concierge PT is growing quickly, and it has benefits beyond those affecting providers and patients alone. When patients no longer worry about long wait times or high copays, they are more likely to seek care early—when they first notice a problem. This not only saves tons of money on more invasive treatments down the line, but also spares patients from a lot of unnecessary suffering.

Do you practice in a concierge model? Do you know someone who does? Please let us know in the comment section below.

Meredith Castin, PT, DPT, is the founder of The Non-Clinical PT, a career development resource designed to help physical, occupational, and speech therapy professionals leverage their degrees in non-clinical ways.

  • Common Questions from our Art of Discovering and Selling Value Webinar Image

    articleMay 16, 2018 | 12 min. read

    Common Questions from our Art of Discovering and Selling Value Webinar

    Earlier this week, WebPT President Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC/L, and guest host Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA, hosted a webinar designed to help physical therapists learn the art of discovering—and selling—their value. While PTs have historically shied away from sales, in today’s evolving healthcare ecosystem, it’s absolutely imperative that all providers—and especially specialists such as rehab therapists—excel at positioning the benefits of their services in such a way that resonates with patients, payers, and referral sources. At …

  • 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 …

  • Future-Proofing Your Practice: Diversifying Revenue Streams Image

    downloadJan 7, 2016

    Future-Proofing Your Practice: Diversifying Revenue Streams

    What does it take to future-proof your practice? In this guide, we’ll talk about how you can incorporate health and wellness services to diversify your practice’s revenue streams and boost your bottom line. Ready to prepare your practice for the age of payment reform? Enter your email address below to download Future-Proofing Your Practice, Volume 3.

  • PT in the House: 6 Benefits of Running a Home-Visit Therapy Practice Image

    articleOct 20, 2017 | 7 min. read

    PT in the House: 6 Benefits of Running a Home-Visit Therapy Practice

    What if I told you there’s a physical therapy practice model that requires minimal investment, has a low operating cost, and is practically burnout-proof? What if I added that this model provides a steady flow of new clients and is well poised to meet the rehab needs of the Baby Boomer generation? It would almost be too good to be true, right? Well, this model exists, and since 2009, my partners and I have enjoyed all of …

  • Suppressing Sticker Shock: How to Handle Your Patients’ High-Deductible Health Plans Image

    webinarFeb 23, 2017

    Suppressing Sticker Shock: How to Handle Your Patients’ High-Deductible Health Plans

    Copayments, coinsurances, unresolved balances—oh my! Any one of these can cause headaches for healthcare providers, but as healthcare reform efforts shift more and more financial burden to insurance beneficiaries, today’s practitioners are increasingly facing all three. And these challenges are not only hurting their patient acquisition and retention rates, but also their bottom lines. Tired of spending time verifying benefits only to lose those patients to copay sticker shock? Stuck in a constant cycle of pursuing past-due …

  • Common Questions from Our Cash-Based Physical Therapy Webinar Image

    articleAug 30, 2017 | 19 min. read

    Common Questions from Our Cash-Based Physical Therapy Webinar

    Earlier this week, WebPT’s president and co-founder, Dr. Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC/L, teamed up with cash-based physical therapy guru Dr. Jarod Carter, PT, DPT, MTC, to host a webinar covering all things cash pay —from insurance contracting considerations and Medicare rules to self-referral marketing and service pricing. Thousands of rehab therapy professionals registered to attend, which means we received a ton of questions—so many, in fact, that there was no way we could answer all of …

  • 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 …

  • The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018 Image

    webinarJun 1, 2018

    The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018

    Falling reimbursements. Skyrocketing insurance premiums and copays. Crippling student loan debt. As a PT, OT, or SLP, sometimes it feels like it’s you against the world. After all, the challenges you face on a daily basis are many and complex. But, you’re not alone. In fact, we recently surveyed nearly 7,000 rehab therapy professionals on everything from payment rates and clinic budgets to education costs and salary, and we found some pretty strong—and surprising—trends. [video://]   Curious …

  • Live from the Direct Access Front Lines: The Story of Your Front Office Image

    articleOct 16, 2014 | 6 min. read

    Live from the Direct Access Front Lines: The Story of Your Front Office

    A self-referred patient walks into a PT clinic. Is this the start of a joke or a story with a happy ending? Well, that’s up to you. Your direct access marketing efforts will inspire patients to pick up the phone and dial your clinic. But then what? Your front office team is your direct access front line, and if they’re not prepared to interact with self-referred patients (i.e., those with no referral from another healthcare provider), then …

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