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4 Things Every PT Must Do to Deliver an Excellent Patient Experience

The patient experience is at the heart of your practice's reputation—and your patients' outcomes.

Kylie McKee
5 min read
May 20, 2021
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If you Google the top physical therapy practices in your area, chances are you’ll see a plethora of five-star reviews from patients raving about the positive experiences they had in the clinic—and that’s no coincidence. In fact, search engines like Google will actually boost businesses with more five-star reviews to the top of search engine results pages, which makes it easier for consumers to find the best and brightest their locale has to offer. After all, a person is less likely to leave a review for a business—like a PT practice—when they had a positive experience as opposed to a negative one. So, if there are a lot of happy reviewers, that’s a big deal.

This drives home one irrefutable truth: a stellar patient experience is key to improving your online visibility and thus, driving more patients to your practice—which means creating a positive experience should be a top priority. To that end, here are four things every PT can do to cultivate a great experience—both inside and outside of the clinic:

1. Listen to the patient—during the initial evaluation and throughout the course of care—before launching into solving their problem.

In any relationship, communication is the linchpin that holds the bond together—and when the basis of that relationship is to improve a patient’s mobility and quality of life, it’s especially crucial. Rushing through care can have dire consequences—both physically and financially. As this article from Harvard Business Review explains, “Clinicians become more likely to provide ineffective or undesired treatment and miss pertinent information that would have altered the treatment plan and are often blind to patients’ lack of understanding. All of this serves to diminish the joy of serving patients, thereby contributing to high rates of physician burnout.” These oversights can lead to unnecessary healthcare spending on ineffectual treatments, ultimately deteriorating the bond of trust between physical therapists and their patients.

Get to know patients as human beings.

The antidote to this problem is a shift in perspective: instead of approaching patient care as a provider-driven endeavor, PTs must view their patients as partners in care. Understanding a patient’s lifestyle, likes and dislikes, and personal values not only builds better relationships, but also helps you make more informed treatment choices. Plus, taking time to truly listen and collaborate with patients also fosters increased empathy, which is essential to gaining a patient’s trust—and ultimately, improving health outcomes.

2. Thoroughly explain the patient’s condition and the “why” behind each intervention.

No one likes to feel left in the dark—especially when it comes to their physical health. As a PT, part of your role as the provider is to empower your patients and help them understand the impact of their condition and the interventions used to treat it. This is especially critical as it relates to home exercise programs. A common roadblock during therapy is patient adherence to prescribed home exercises, which is often the result of a lack of patient understanding. As any physical therapist worth their salt knows, the most important part of therapy occurs between office visits, so if a patient doesn’t understand their role in the process—or the importance of completing their home exercise program—it comes at a high financial and physical cost.

Celebrate gains and milestones.

For this reason, it’s best practice to go over the patient’s condition with them during the initial visit and explain how their level of engagement will impact their end results. This is also where outcomes tracking plays a major role. Throughout the course of care, you can track a patient’s outcomes and use that data to demonstrate the progress they’ve made since the start of care. And when a patient meets a major milestone or demonstrates gains, take a moment to celebrate that win. This can be a major boost for patients who express frustration with a lack of improvement, motivating them to stick with therapy—even when things get tough. 

The most-trusted EMR for physical therapists makes outcomes tracking smoother than ever. Learn more about WebPT Outcomes.

3. Maximize one-on-one time with the patient.

As stated above, much of a patient’s hard work happens at home—but that doesn’t mean in-office visits aren’t just as important. During therapy, PTs play a dual role as the patient’s guide and personal champion—which is why it’s so important to make those patient visits count. To do that, you must provide as much dedicated attention as possible. While extenders serve an important role in therapy practice, patients should never feel like they only see assistants. So, take time to work with each individual patient whenever possible. And on those occasions when a PTA is guiding the patient’s exercises, check in with the patient to see how they’re doing and offer them a chance to ask questions. When you’re building a new patient relationship, this attentiveness goes a long way.

Minimize distractions.

Speaking of attentiveness, one way to enhance one-on-one time with patients is by mitigating potential interruptions. Focusing on the patient—and only the patient—during treatment not only ensures their safety, but also signifies that you value their time. Some considerations include:

  • minimizing extraneous side conversations with coworkers,
  • keeping your cell phone muted (even better if it’s left out of the treatment area altogether), and
  • completing the bulk of your documentation between patients (if possible).

4. Be available for patient questions in between appointments.

That said, your attentiveness to your patients shouldn’t be limited to their in-person appointments. After all, your patients are still under your direction and care—even when they’re not in the office. So, make sure patients know your assistance and expertise are available to them between visits—within reason, of course. Here are a few ways you can do this:

  • Verbally communicate that patients can call or email the clinic if they have questions before their next appointment.
  • Send a Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) survey after each visit. (This will allow patients an opportunity to provide feedback about their last visit.)
  • Touch base via email with helpful information and articles relevant to their condition or treatment.
  • Consider using an interactive home exercise program—like WebPT HEP—that allows patients to message you about specific exercises and interventions while at home.
  • Follow up with patients via text or phone between appointments.

Stay in touch with patients between appointments with the click of a single button. Learn more about WebPT Reach and schedule a free, no-obligation demo here.

So, there you have it: four ways to improve the patient experience inside your rehab therapy practice—and beyond. Got any burning questions? Let us know in the comment section below! 


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