5 Things Your Patients Are Asking For
Are you giving it to them?
By Dave Townsend, PT, MPT
According to the Deloitte 2016 Consumer Priorities in Health Care Survey,1 your patients, now referred to as health care consumers, are asking for a lot! Can we deliver what they are asking for? I believe we can, but we must listen to our patients very closely.
This survey of more than 1787 patients yielded a gold mine of information on what patients want the most. The five points that appear most pertinent to private practice physical therapy are the following.
- Greater personalization
- More engaging digital experiences
- Transparency in pricing and billing
- Customized experiences
So, what does that mean for you the physical therapist treating today’s health care consumer? Let’s dive a little deeper into each of the five key ways that we can deliver what our patients are asking for.
Everyone wants to feel special and really understood. Today’s health care consumer wants a truly personal experience. Think about your last trip to Starbucks. You got your coffee, your way, with your name on it, and it was announced to the whole shop. Who doesn’t like hearing their name chirped in a cheery voice? Everyone does. It’s human nature.
So, what are some ways patients are asking for their physical therapy experience to be more personal? They are asking to be listened to on a level like never before. From the first phone call, the health care consumer wants to have an experience that is tailored for them. Here’s an example. When a new patient makes the first phone call to your office, what should your front office staff be talking to them about first, right out of the gate? Is it what insurance do you have? What doctor referred you? What’s your phone number? Email address? No! According to Jerry Durham physical therapist, successful private practice owner, consultant, and the famous evangelist for “the patient experience,” all you need to do is simply ask, “What’s going on, Joe?” Including the patient’s name is critical.
That one simple, casual question will open a huge view into what they need, want, and expect from the whole physical therapy experience. It’s simple, powerful, and critical. You’ve got to connect at a personal level. It’s what they are asking for.
This is an obvious but often overlooked category with a wide range of options.
- Convenient locations
- Convenient ways to schedule appointments
- Convenient ways to get reminders like text and email
- Convenient ways to view home exercises
- Convenient ways to ask questions to therapists and front desk staff
- Convenient ways to get more information about their condition
The list goes on and on and on. From the first phone call or visit to your website, all the way to the completion of their plan of care, every little step needs to be convenient for the patient. All it takes is a keen awareness of what they expect and want. Then, when they get it, they’ll be a raving fan for life.
More engaging digital experiences
Almost all patients are glued to their phones, even the grandmas and grandpas, and those who aren’t will be very soon. The data is well known regarding the massive increase in mobile phone use. Current estimates according to Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) show that the number of mobile phone users is over 5 billion in 2017.2 What this means for you is that you have to meet your patients where they are with engaging content and experiences. Within a few short years almost all patients young and old will expect every aspect of their physical therapy experience to be connected to their smartphone in some way.
Things like stick figures, scribbled instructions, and preprinted handouts simply won’t work anymore. Fortunately, the core of physical therapy will always be personal and hands on. But for the health care consumer to see content as valuable, it will have to be on their smartphone and the content must be super simple to use with a very personal feel to it.
Transparency with pricing and billing
The days of a patient blindly going to physical therapy because their doctor wrote a prescription are all but over. Patients are vastly more informed, and some are jaded by past experiences of getting overcharged by hospitals, doctors, and physical therapy clinics. Add to that the increases in copays, deductibles, and premiums. Patients can’t help but ask what their money is buying them! They want to know their cost upfront and they are willing to pay more for quality. They need to be 100 percent confident that what they are paying for is valuable.
Physical therapists Paul Gough, Greg Todd, and Aaron LeBauer have proved this over the past few years. Each has built fast-growing private practices focused on giving patients value and customer service. They represent a new generation of very successful practice owners who also teach webinars and provide sold-out online courses, produce popular podcasts and blogs, and host live events.
Gough, Todd, and LeBauer stress the importance of presenting a clear message of the value physical therapy brings to patients’ lives matched with pricing information given upfront that patients are more than happy to pay for. In a world of uncertainty and insurance confusion, transparency means profits and a much-needed breath of fresh air.
The word customized might mean different things to different therapists. For one therapist a customized home exercise program might mean choosing videos from a database of thousands of videos produced in a studio and then prescribing reps and sets. But the patient may find this an impersonal approach to their treatment.
Many of the top physical therapists in the country including Jeff Moore, PT, DPT, founder of the Institute of Clinical Excellence, (one of the fastest growing continuing education companies) in the United States, said in a recent podcast that he feels the best way to create and deliver home exercise instruction is by filming patients with smartphones during visits. Why? Not only is it much faster than searching and picking from a database list or fetching a handout, but more importantly, it provides more personal attention directed to the patient’s specific situation and the convenience of referring back to the video for the therapist’s direction and feedback while doing home exercises. In fact, an example like this one provides three of the five things patients are looking for: a customized approach that is personalized and convenient.
These five things are within reach for all of us. We can do it. Choose one this week and try to deliver it. It starts with the mindset of seeing it from the perspective of the patient. Your patients will thank you for it!
2 https://www.gsma.com/mobileeconomy/. Accessed August 2017.
Dave Townsend, PT, MPT, is a Private Practice Section member, the owner of Santa Rosa Physical Therapy, and founder of Switchback Health. He can be reached at email@example.com.