Shrinking Reimbursement Creates Poor Outlook for PT Profession...Wait, Really?!

Shrinking Reimbursement Creates Poor Outlook for PT Profession...Wait, Really?!

By: Hollan Oliver, DPT, OCS, SCS is the Director of Rehabilitation at Elite Physical Therapy in North Smithfield, RI. 

As a Director of Rehabilitation at a large outpatient private practice, I certainly hope that's not true (I don’t believe that it’s true)! However I've seen dozens of small private practices forced to sellout to large corporations which leads me to write this blog on one of the largest assets to the success of our growing practice: building customer loyalty. 

Building customer loyalty can single handedly keep your practice afloat and thriving. It’s a relationship that is built from a combination of clinical, billing and administrative teamwork and if you feel inclined to Google "how to create loyal customers" you'll find dozens of business tips to enhance your customer relations. What you won't find however is the key to creating loyal customers and happy employees while also generating revenue for your practice. Yes, it's the dreaded word: technology! More specifically for physical therapy practices, Healigo. 

The majority of healthcare professionals cringe at the thought of implementing technology. Most practices have successfully made the shift to electronic medical records, and there are several quality solutions with emphasis on cost savings and administrative efficiency. However, until recently HEP software has been mediocre at best. Archaic paper printouts, no patient accountability, no patient-provider feedback and quite frankly these solutions are atrocious. To be honest, these solutions are equivalent to handing your patient a moist hot pack and throwing electrical stimulation on their low back.

We explored a number of software platforms that advertised “patient engagement” and discovered that it’s really a buzzword in healthcare. It’s clear however that using the right technology will keep patients accountable to their home exercise programs, foster patient-provider relationships and generate referrals for your practice. By far, the best solution we found was Healigo’s patient adherence platform that’s designed by physical therapists and behavioral change experts. Healigo’s platform allows therapists to send home exercise programs directly to a patient’s mobile device, sends reminders and collects actionable data for therapists. Healigo has been an unbelievable asset to our PT practice and our patients love it!  

When we implemented the software, we simply thought we were replacing the paper HEP printouts. We quickly learned that the platform offered so much more. Healigo helped eliminate pain-points for therapists in clinical practice. Time spent creating and modifying programs was significantly reduced and the platform collected data that allowed therapists to dial in treatment like never before. The platform contains a patient dashboard that alerts you when a patient’s pain level has reached an actionable point, shows you how long it’s been since the HEP was updated and has graphs of progress over time. Not only were PTs benefiting from the platform, we quickly began seeing revenue enhancements with the platform. Over a 6 month period we saw a 30% reduction in patient drop out, an increase in our % of kept appointments and an increase in revenue averaging over $500/PT per month.

Here are a couple real life examples (names changed for privacy): Liz Smith, a 55 year old nurse presents to PT with chronic hip pain. On Monday Mrs. Smith attends her appointment for dry needling with 9/10 pain. The days following her appointment, I was able observe that her pain dropped significantly. Prior to having Healigo, I was left wondering how my patients responded to their treatments. While there is certainly an art to being a physical therapist, as a profession we lack sufficient data to help guide our decision-making. 

Another example: John Williams is a life long lobsterman who presents to PT for an initial evaluation of his right shoulder pain. At the time of his evaluation, his pain level was a 5/10. Following his evaluation, Mr. Williams’ pain slowly increased to 9/10. My Healigo dashboard notified me of Mr. Williams’ high pain level. Rather than waiting until his next scheduled appointment, I called to check in. Mr. Williams seemed frustrated with his condition and reported that he wasn’t going to come to his next appointment because "he was in too much pain." I was able to intervene with patient education and scheduled Mr. Williams for an appointment later that evening. With some skilled manual therapy, I was able to reduce his pain and get him back on track. Prior to Healigo, Mr. Williams represents the stereotypical patient who attends therapy and then fails to show up for his next appointment because "PT didn't work" or drops out of therapy all together. In this particular incident, Healigo engaged my patient between clinical visits, provided actionable data and kept my patient engaged in their treatment.

Generating referrals in physical therapy is tough! To maintain competitive in physical therapy, it’s imperative to build loyal customers. With healthcare reform and fierce competitors, you have to put real energy and effort into maintaining a loyal patient base. Simply rehabilitating their injury is rarely enough to keep them coming back or referring friends or family. For most healthcare practices, the relationship ends when the patient leaves the office. I highly recommend that you start using Healigo with your patients and you’ll start seeing changes that will allow you to grow and thrive in a challenging and uncertain healthcare transition.

To see Healigo in action, check out their booth at the APTA Combined Sections Meeting in San Antonio, TX (Booth #1356). Start being apart of the movement and see the platform yourself: