Outside Perspective: Positioning the Value of PT for Consumers and Referrers

With the rising costs of health care—and the increase in high-deductible health plans (HDHPs)—patients are assuming a greater portion of their healthcare bills than ever before. So, it’s no surprise that they’re beginning to exhibit many more consumer-like behaviors, including performing online research to assess the value of potential healthcare providers and treatments rather than blindly accepting referrals from their primary care physicians. And it’s not just these patient-consumers who are redefining value in the healthcare space; referrers and payers are evaluating providers against new standards as well. While price is certainly still a factor, it’s far from the only one. So, providers in all disciplines—especially specialists such as rehab therapists—must adapt their value propositions to match their audience’s needs. And that starts with discovering the role value plays across all five of these important categories:

  1. Brand;
  2. Relationship;
  3. Quality;
  4. Convenience; and
  5. Price.

Brand

While it’s gotten better in recent years, physical therapy still has a branding problem. Most people in the general public—and even some of our peers in other disciplines—don’t really understand what we do. And no one is going to be able to change that but us. While creating a stellar brand at the individual clinic level has its own benefits—like attracting more of the right customers and building a better reputation in the community—we can also use our individual brand power as a launching pad to develop a unified brand for the profession as a whole.

So, what separates a good brand from a not-so-good one? Good brands connect people, elicit feelings, address pain points, and create impressions of culture. If your clinic’s brand doesn’t do that—if it doesn’t provide your patients, peers, and referrers with a sense of who you are from the get-go, or if the brand that you’ve created doesn’t align with what those parties perceive as valuable—then it’s time reconsider your clinic’s persona internally and online. The latter channel is especially important today, as more and more patients are interacting with your clinic for the first time via your website or social media pages. That means every aspect of your online presence should be optimized to tell the story of your value.

Relationship

Most healthcare providers—especially rehab therapists—understand the importance of the patient-provider relationship. We all know that the quality of our relationships with our patients directly correlates with their ability to achieve the desired clinical outcomes, fully engage in their course of care, and experience the full value of the care we provide. While many small practices are able to achieve success by prioritizing the patient relationship and patient experience, it can become increasingly difficult to deliver that level of one-on-one attention as a practice grows—especially when the time devoted to fostering patient relationships gets replaced with things that feel more urgent (like discussing symptoms).

However, there is a way to scale relationship-building efforts to ensure patients feel cared for as individuals—without burning yourself or your staff out: namely, leveraging patient relationship management software. I urge all practice owners—and especially those whose clinics are growing—to adopt a PRM platform that:

  • enables providers to effectively connect with patients between sessions and after discharge by providing relevant value-add content at optimal intervals;
  • collects valuable patient feedback providers can use to address patient concerns in (near) real-time and identify trends that may be impacting the patient experience on the whole; and
  • leaves you—and your staff—with enough extra time and energy on your hands to get to know your patients as people.

Quality

In today’s patient-centric, value-based healthcare paradigm, more and more focus is being placed on the quality of care we provide—and rightfully so. Patients, payers, and referrers are coming to expect the very best as a baseline. Thus, it’s imperative that we all step it up a notch and ensure that we truly are practicing at the top of our licenses—which means not only choosing the continuing education classes that best enable us to support our patients and our practices (no shoddy, free CEUs), but also diligently tracking outcomes in order to foster quality care delivery. After all, tracking outcomes via patient satisfaction surveys and outcome measurement tools is the best—and only—way to truly know if the plans of care you’re prescribing are the best ones available. Just be sure that the data you choose to collect is risk-adjusted and that all members of the greater healthcare community can readily share and understand it. Collecting data in silos isn’t going to help our individual practices—or our profession.

Quality doesn’t apply only to in-clinic practices, either. Your home exercise program is another way to demonstrate the quality of your services—or the lack thereof. If you’re still relying on difficult-to-follow paper exercise sheets, you’re missing out on a wonderful opportunity to serve your patients, demonstrate your value, and—as an added bonus—differentiate yourself from other providers. Just think: if your patients can piece together a higher-quality exercise program from YouTube videos than the one their expert-level provider is giving them, they may very well ditch your services—and perhaps physical therapy altogether. Instead, adopt a brandable, interactive, multimedia HEP that makes it easy for patients to complete their home exercises safely and provide you with feedback along the way. That way, you can make changes to the program in real time—instead of waiting until the patient returns for another session. The best HEPs also come complete with a secure patient-provider messaging platform you can use to answer questions, provide additional instructions for exercise completion, and cheer on your patients for jobs well done.

Want to learn how to discover value in the last two categories—convenience and price—as well as learn strategies for communicating your value to patients, referrers, and payers? Check out this free webinar in which Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA, and I discuss the art of discovering and selling your value. It’s high-time that every physical therapist learned how to tap into his or her potential—and articulate that potential in a way that aligns with his or her audience’s perception of value. It’s the only way we’re going to thrive in this new era of healthcare—as individuals and as a profession.

 

About the Author

Heidi Jannenga is co-founder and president of WebPT, the leading physical therapy software platform for enhancing patient care and fueling business growth. She has more than 15 years of experience as a physical therapist and clinic director, and she’s an active member of the sports and private practice sections of the APTA as well as the PT-PAC Board of Trustees.

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