In her most recent Founder Letter, WebPT co-founder and Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Heidi Jannenga offered her thoughts on how rehab therapy clinics can prepare for the recession we could be facing in early 2023. And while they’re all great tips that should be taken to heart, one idea stuck out as particularly salient—and thus worthy of expanding on: meeting patients where they are. Clinicians are already struggling with declining reimbursements and low-paying contracts with insurance companies, and an economic downturn could result in decreased patient volume to boot as patients try to save on co-pays and deductibles. That’s why therapists are going to have to go the extra mile and find new avenues for attracting new patients.
With that in mind, we’re outlining why you should be looking to get your practice's name in front of potential patients—namely, in your own backyard.
Community outreach is vital to growing your business.
While it might be more necessary during a recession, expanding your local footprint is never a bad thing no matter the economic situation; after all, aren’t you always looking to grow your practice? Marketing your business through local outreach is incredibly useful for increasing awareness of both your practice and the benefits of physical therapy. And in time, that increased awareness will pay off in a greater number of patients coming through your doors.
If your marketing efforts to this point have mainly consisted of posting to social media, setting up your Google My Business page, and building referral relationships—which are all worthwhile best practices—you might not know where to start when it comes to meeting potential patients face-to-face. Here are a few options for expanding your reach beyond your clinic’s physical (and digital) walls.
Work with businesses to offer on-site treatment options.
It’s a point we’ve touched upon before in other blogs, and we’ll continue to reiterate: you should look to partner with other businesses in your area to facilitate on-site rehab services for their employees. More employers are opting to be self-insured than ever before, and are eager to reduce their healthcare costs. Not only that, they’d jump at the chance to reduce the number of hours lost to employee injuries, and to offer employees an additional convenient and effective healthcare benefit.
Luckily for them, the rehab services offered by your team of skilled providers fit the bill perfectly.
In addition to the typical in-clinic care you can provide, you can also work with companies to:
- Have therapists set up at their offices to treat employees onsite;
- Offer free wellness screenings;
- Provide early intervention screenings for injured employees; or
- Host an employee health fair.
Presenting your clinic to local businesses as the best option for saving on long-term healthcare costs highlights the tangible benefits to their company as well as their employees. After all, part of meeting patients where they are is selling rehab therapy in terms they understand.
Have a presence at local events.
We’ve all seen the pop-up tents from local businesses at fairs, festivals, and other community events, and there’s no reason your clinic can’t have its own tent at the next citywide shindig. Your business isn’t that different from any other you’d see in those streets or concourses: you’re offering services people need, and might seek out—if they know who you are.
Being out and about at local events is a great way to spread the word about your business, and offers a chance to improve awareness and education. Pamphlets, videos, and a clinician or two on hand can help to answer questions and educate attendees on the benefits of physical therapy and its availability under direct access laws. And with a tablet and mobile-friendly scheduling software, you could even get a few appointments on the books.
The Rehab2Perform team has taken engagement a step further by serving as the physical therapy partner for races and runs in their area, complete with a recovery trailer stocked with Hyperice and Normatec devices. These kinds of events are a logical fit for your clinic, offering the chance for meaningful interactions and hands-on demonstrations with obvious candidates for rehab therapy services—which brings us to our next point.
Partner with local sports leagues and fitness centers.
Every rehab therapist has plenty of athletes, weekend warriors, and gym enthusiasts coming into their clinic for treatment on a regular basis. So if you’re looking to grow your pool of patients, you should go straight to the source and work with the sports leagues and gyms in your area. Developing a marketing relationship with both youth and adult sports associations and fitness centers in addition to existing physician and medical facility referrals can exponentially increase the patient pool. Not only that, the athletes and gym rats coming in for treatment will hopefully leave as advocates of the efficacy of physical therapy—and that’s word-of-mouth marketing you can’t buy.
These partnerships are also about creating a connection to the community even when you’re not trying to sell your services. Some clinics, like Dynamix Physical Therapy in West Tennessee, offer their services pro bono to school sports leagues to help treat and prevent injuries, in addition to sponsoring youth leagues in the area. Those and other volunteer opportunities might not come with a direct financial return, but it’s a great way to give back to the community and to help others. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to have your business highlighted to more people—or for those people to see the commitment to helping others that carries through to your work.
Host a community event.
One twist on the approach to reaching patients where they are is to bring them to you. If your clinic is located in a small town or other tight-knit community, opening your doors for a community event is a great way to ingratiate your business with the people in your area. It’s also an opportunity to demystify rehab therapy so that people will feel comfortable seeking out your services when they need treatment.
Granted, hosting an event at your clinic isn’t as easy as buying some food and refreshments and setting up a Spotify playlist. As this blog post lays out, creating an effective community event involves:
- Determining your goals for the event, whether that’s creating awareness of promoting a certain product or service;
- Planning your event to meet that goal and to suit your audience;
- Making the event something people actually want to attend; and
- Finding the right time and date to maximize attendance.
If free food and drink aren’t enough to entice, you can offer the opportunity to try out some of the equipment you use with patients, free consultations, or raffles of any retail items you sell to really pique people’s interest. However you make it happen, throwing a pretty good party gives you the chance to highlight to attendees how your work can help them with the pain and injuries they’re dealing with on a daily basis—and plant the seeds of what will hopefully be a positive relationship between your clinic and the community you serve.
Tapping into new opportunities to find potential patients is a great way to help fill in the financial gaps left by cuts to reimbursements as well as the decreased patient volume during a possible recession. It’s also a great way for rehab therapists to reach more people who need their skilled care and to increase public awareness of physical therapy in general—something that has been a struggle within the industry for years.