Added Value

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Use technology to improve your bottom line while putting your patients first.

By Quinn Worden

You likely started your practice for more professional autonomy, a passion to deliver better care to the communities you wanted to influence, or perhaps financial independence for your family. The value you create is what matters, but it’s up to each of us to define what’s most valuable as a private practice owner.

As the son of a physical therapy private practice owner, I grew up watching my father enjoy the rewarding aspects of ownership. I would hear about the success stories of getting that high school senior back on the field to play team sports, or the 80-year-old weightlifter who wanted to get back to competition, and did. I heard about countless other patients whose lives were improved after treatment by my father and his team. Sitting around the dinner table I also got to hear some of the not so fun conversations: discussions about increased costs, decreased payments, and the struggle to keep it all together while pursuing my father’s dream of owning a private practice. It would be ideal if there were a way for business owners like my father to leverage technology to help patient outcomes and better control costs.

In a time of growing costs and decreased payment, wouldn’t it be nice to find other revenue streams to supplement your practice? Did you know there are companies out there that offer technology-enabled solutions to control costs and improve your bottom line with a focus on your patients’ outcomes? Most practices need to dispense some type of physical therapy products or at least make recommendations on where to buy specific items. Imagine the ability to sell products and supplies that your patients need, that you recommend, while you build additional value for your practice. There are numberous variations of online health stores, virtual showrooms, and e-dispensaries for your practice. Depending on your needs, some may be a great fit. Even if you are doing a minimal amount of dispensing physical therapy products, having your own supply line could help to keep your patients and referral sources achieving optimal outcomes. Patients will appreciate the convenience of purchasing helpful products right in the clinic, with demonstrations and advice from their physical therapist and feedback at the next appointment.

I’m not suggesting that your team suddenly becomes a bunch of predatory product peddlers, convincing patients that they need dozens of products to improve their outcomes while you fixate on your bottom line. Simply adding technology to streamline patient care improves business performance and enhances patient outcomes. The fact is, your patients do have a need for products, and offering these products puts your patients first. Sure, your patients can use a bag of peas, but does icing with an elasto-gel ice pack provide a better outcome? I argue, absolutely!

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You know your practice, you know your patient populations, and you know the supplies that you are already recommending to them. Right now, you might be sending them to the supply company down the street, guiding them to Amazon, or sending them to local big name pharmacy chains. Why not use technology to your advantage and help your patients at the same time? Patients would be pleased to be able to buy products right there in the clinic, rather than adding a separate trip or online search to their to do list.

It’s time to stop cutting off pieces of resistance bands and giving them away to your patients. It’s time to consider having your own in-clinic retail program, and with today’s technology it’s easier than ever. Imagine being able to supply, and easily track, commonly used items like ice packs, foam rollers, stretch-out straps, shoulder pulleys, and much more directly on site. Simply find the technology that works for you, open an account, select your inventory, and you’re in business! Look at the number of unique patients who come through your doors. How much product do you think that patient population would truly benefit from? This should give you an idea of the potential income opportunity by identifying a value add system to better serve your patients.

As a private practice owner you’re not a high-volume retailer, but you are a highly educated clinician who wants to help your patients while maintaining your bottom line. Finding an in-clinic retail solution could be a great addition to your practice. Having a solution that will allow you to effectively track your inventory, apply sales tax where applicable, and process your payments easily could ultimately improve your business performance.

Discovering these technologies will improve your bottom line, but more importantly improve your patients’ outcomes. By not giving away resistance bands and finding technology-enabled products to improve your bottom line, you’ll be creating more value for your patients, your team, and yourself. Your time with your patients as a health care professional is valuable, and so taking the time to educate your patients is valuable. Look at the big picture: The next time you or your team reaches into your drawer for the scissors to cut yet another couple pieces of resistance band to give away will likely cost you 15 percent or more of what you’ll collect for that visit. Take action to improve your bottom line, add value to your practice, and support your patients by providing them with helpful products for a speedier and better outcome.

Quinn Worden is the president and founder of PTUnited, a company that uses the power of the internet and leverages technology to deliver more efficient supply chains. He can be reached at qw@ptunited.com.

Copyright © 2017, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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