The new year is a great opportunity to introduce personal and professional changes into your life. For rehab therapists, there might be no better change to make than expanding their community involvement in 2024. Why? Not only will community outreach help with the longstanding public awareness problem that rehab therapy has struggled with, but it also offers the chance to connect therapy clinics and providers with the people who could benefit from your services now and in the future. If you’d like to cultivate a better public persona like Ebeneezer Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol (spoiler?), here’s how rehab therapists can expand their community footprint.
Set your goals.
First things first: if you’re going to undertake any new initiative, you want to have some clear-cut goals you’re aiming to achieve. That can be tangible goals, like a number of new leads per community event, or something that’s harder to measure—but no less important—like building brand awareness for your practice and rehab therapy as a whole. It seems like a simple thing, but having some benchmark for the success in your effort to expand rehab therapists’ footprint will allow you to better measure success—in any form.
Justifying the expenditure of time, effort, and money that doesn’t seem to have a more direct path to return on investment may be difficult to swallow, but outreach efforts can pay off in unexpected ways. As WebPT Co-Founder and Chief Clinical Officer, Heidi Jannenga notes in this article in PPS Impact, Rehab2Perform started an internship program to help the next generation of physical therapists; in turn, what they’ve created is a pipeline of potential hires who are already familiar with the clinic’s workflows—and with whom Rehab2Perform leadership was familiar.
Understand your audience.
Like any marketing effort, you need to have a firm handle on the group you’re targeting to craft an effective message. When you’re talking about a community, that means a host of factors—from the people most likely to be your patients to the physicians in your area who treat them, as well as the businesses, leagues, events, and other organizations and gatherings that are woven together to create the networks your community is built upon.
For example, the 2022 Ascend Practice of the Year winner, Dynamix Physical Therapy, was able to build a strong reputation and set itself apart in the communities it serves by offering pro bono services to rural and underserved schools and their student-athletes, as well as participate in local festivals, parades, and sports league sponsorships. Not only do these efforts help build relationships and awareness, but those relationships have turned into actual revenue; as Jannenga notes in the same PPS Impact article, Dynamix saw a 33% increase in referrals in 2021, with part of that increase attributed to community outreach.
With that in mind, rehab therapists can expand their community footprint by getting involved with fairs, festivals, and sports leagues in the area where your clinic’s located. That could be just sponsoring to get your logo on a banner, or for more visibility, you could go all out and bring some of your team out to talk to make face-to-face connections. If you aim to bring more people into your clinic, having staff on hand to talk with people and collect information might offer better results and allow you to demonstrate your commitment to a better patient experience.
Partner with local businesses.
Events are only part of the puzzle. Rehab therapists can expand their community footprint by teaming up with strategic partners in your area to reach more patients. Creating a referral relationship with local gyms and fitness centers is a pretty obvious opportunity for those in sports medicine—after all, while anyone might require rehab therapy services at any time, workout warriors are more likely to develop injuries than more sedentary groups like writers. (Ahem.) The sports leagues you volunteer with are another great referral source with a lot of aches and pains.
Your approach doesn’t have to just be athletically-focused, though. Working with companies in your area to provide services on-site can be a great way to drum up business as well—and can be your first step down the road to direct-to-employer contracting if you haven’t already adopted that approach. Employees would be glad for your help in being pain-free again, and employers would be grateful for your ability to reduce days missed and the associated costs.
Speak to the benefits of rehab therapy.
Part of marketing any business—and perhaps the biggest part—is making the case for the value you provide. Unfortunately, that’s not something that most rehab therapists are learning as part of their professional education. But that doesn’t mean it’s not something that can’t be learned.
A big part of your community outreach has to be making the most of your interactions with the people you encounter, even if they're not an immediate candidate for rehab therapy. That means being able to clearly and concisely explain the benefits of rehab therapy in a way that someone who isn’t a medical professional can clearly understand. While it might be educational to explain the particulars of a knee injury with some handy imaging on an iPad, what’s really going to grab people’s attention is explaining how rehab therapists can achieve better patient outcomes that lead to life with less pain—and without the need for prescription medications or even surgery. After all, so much of the marketing we see on a daily basis is focused on addressing pain points—and nowhere is that more literal than in patient care within rehab therapy.
With Medicare reimbursements poised to drop once more, rehab therapists need to continue thinking outside of the box for new opportunities to grow their revenue—which could mean stepping outside of rehab clinics and into communal spaces to make the case to potential patients directly. If rehab therapists can expand their community footprint in the new year, they will be better positioned to capitalize on new patients—and weather the financial storms that may come.