I don’t have time. It’s too expensive. I don’t have a doctor’s referral.
If you’re a physical therapist or a primary care physician who has recommended physical therapy (PT) to patients, you’re likely familiar with these excuses and misperceptions.
One in two adults are affected by a musculoskeletal (MSK) condition, which includes trauma, back pain and arthritis, costing an estimated $213 billion in annual treatment, care and lost wages. Yet, as many as 70 percent of patients fail to adhere to their PT treatment recommendations.
The reasons why vary. Non-compliance with exercises between clinic visits may lead to frustration with the effectiveness of their PT’s regimen. Some patients require more consistent encouragement between visits, or changes in insurance policies may influence their out-of-pocket costs. So, how can physical therapists bridge this divide?
The value of telehealth
As technology continues to transform healthcare, services are expanding beyond the typical brick-and-mortar doctor’s office to cater to patients in more personal ways.
A study by the American Hospital Association found that:
- 76 percent of patients prioritize access to care over need for human interactions with their health care providers,
- 70 percent of patients are comfortable communicating with their health care providers via text, email or video in lieu of seeing them in person, and
- 30 percent of patients already use computers or mobile devices to check for medical or diagnostic information.
It’s clear that there is a market and a need for remote patient monitoring and real-time communication between patients and their health care providers. That’s especially true with the more than 125,000 PT clinics throughout the U.S.
There are 242,440 people in the PT workforce, and that number is expected to grow by 28 percent by 2024, compared to the national job growth rate of 7.4 percent. Competition is stiff, and telehealth is a powerful tool that can attract and retain patients.
Improving the patient experience can enhance clinic revenue.
Outside of the emotional and physical demands of the job, physical therapists have long hours and packed schedules. For clinic operators, it can be difficult to stay on top of paperwork, leaving little-to-no time to promote their practice. Along with telehealth, some apps also give clinics marketing tools and subscription-based continuing care programs that further monetize their services and provide new revenue opportunities.
That’s especially important as clinics continue to lose a staggering amount of money to patient churn in a market where PT clinics are increasingly responsible for attracting patients instead of relying on physician referrals. It can be up to five times more cost-effective to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one, yet only 18 percent of companies put their primary marketing focus on customer retention.
Whether patients are short on time, money or motivation, there’s no substitute for full-cycle care. An app that includes customizable exercises tools, telehealth, and marketing tools allow PT clinics to strengthen patient relationships, monitor patient progress, and engage patients with resources and wellness tools during—and long after—patients leave the clinic.
By embracing telehealth and robust apps that enrich their offerings, PT clinics can add a much-needed value to the treatment programs they offer patients while solidifying the long-term financial health of their practice.
Michael J. Gassman is the founder of In Hand Health, an app-based software solution helping PT clinics thrive on three things: creating a dynamic patient experience; strengthening the relationships between physical therapists and patients; and increasing profitability. He can be reached at [email protected].