Creating Community Partnerships for Overall Community Health
A win-win situation for both practice and public.
By Jenilee Jaber, BA
Even for the busiest physical therapy offices, promoting your services to the community is extremely important to nurture deeper engagement with the community.
Physical therapy clinics have numerous opportunities to spend time out of the office and in the communities in which they operate. There are several ways in which staff members can create community partnerships that will help serve their local area and their clinic at the same time. The primary goal of partnering with the community is to improve the health of its members through physical therapy. Community partnerships create a win-win situation for both the practice and the health of the overall general public.
Community partnerships seek to better engage the community to achieve a long-term and sustainable outcome of educating the public about physical therapy services. For an office to be successful in today’s climate, it must encompass strategies and processes that are sensitive to the local community. The word community can be used to define groups of people, whether they are citizens, interest groups, or stakeholders. A community may be a geographic location (community of place), a community of similar interest (community of practice), or a community of affiliation or identity such as a business or sports team.
Getting to know your local community can help to better understand how to educate and care for the people involved. Your clinic can identify health needs through community assessments with participation or input from key wellness partners. One significant outcome of a community assessment can be identifying relationships with like-minded offices that focus on wellness. By growing your partnerships, you can discover new ways to share resources and encourage teamwork to impact the health of your community. At the same time, you will be educating your community partner on your therapy services and how you can help their patients as well. Working independently can have an impact, but by partnering with other organizations around a shared goal, the impact can be much greater!
Effective and maintainable physical therapy community partnerships are critical to building community health. Building a society that seeks health requires providing all individuals an equal opportunity to live the healthiest life they can. Your office can develop programs based on prioritized community health needs, such as complimentary injury screenings for high school athletes and weekend warriors, foot and ankle programs, preseason golf or ski conditioning classes, or participation in corporate health fairs.
Recently, one of the therapists I work with began developing partnerships with key dentists in our community to offer a comprehensive approach to treating patients with postural and jaw issues. This therapist has seen a significant increase in referrals from the dentists he connected with, and these patients are achieving results not previously possible without this partnership.
Our clinicians mostly live in the communities they serve and can play an active role in keeping their communities well. Each weekend you could have the opportunity to send a therapist to perform injury screens at your city’s 5K or help to support your local high school’s athletic event. By dedicating time and resources outside of the office, each staff member has the opportunity to improve the health and well-being of the community through community partnerships.
Setting a priority of creating mutually beneficial partnerships to advance the physical therapy profession, and to support the patients and consumers your office serves, is an ongoing effort. Keeping up to date with community calendars, local events, business chambers, sports teams, and schools will keep your office informed of the best opportunities for your team. Having a key staff member act as your practice representative or community liaison for community engagement can also help your team stay focused on participation. You can also assign support staff, or front desk managers, to attend events. Allow all of your staff members a chance to help represent your office and services to the public.
Physical therapy business owners are an integral part of the communities in which they live and work, responsible for helping individuals get back to daily life. A vital aspect of community involvement, and creating partnerships, is to celebrate your successes and communicate stories broadly with your team. Sending a thank you card or basket to your local wellness partners can show your appreciation. You can also take photos of your clinic’s participation and share them through social media, or internally at the office. By doing some of these things with your staff members, you can help strengthen your clinic goals, create meaningful new partnerships, and foster a healthier community as well!
Jenilee Jaber, BA, is a regional practice representative for IRG Physical Therapy, Mill Creek, Washington. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.