Embracing Technology

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How to innovate wisely.

By Emily Teetzen, PT, DPT

Private practice physical therapy sits at the intersection between health care and business, both of which can present challenges. You are running a clinic in a fluid, ever-changing market while also facing the challenges presented within the health care system, which can be just as unpredictable and tumultuous. Direct access has increased our access to patients, but their path to our door can still be riddled with hurdles such as insurance coverage, visit limitations, copays, and physician referrals. You play a game of constant adaptation in trying to maintain your company’s unique identity while continuing to provide the best service and patient care. In addition, private practices need to innovate to attract and maintain effective and driven employees.

Physical therapists (PTs), at our core, are innovators. Monitoring patient responses to intervention and reacting accordingly, providing alternative exercise or stretching techniques in the face of difficulty, and helping others return to full function is what we do every day. As business owners, PTs have to be just as innovative to ensure the success of their practice. In recent years this has included employing the wonders of modern technology to improve everything from marketing to home exercise prescription. To decrease no-show rates, a simple text or email reminder system can be used to communicate prior to appointments. In addition to sending patients home with a paper copy of their home program, a link to the program or digital copy can be emailed. Some practitioners and clinics have their own YouTube channel filled with videos of their favorite and frequently prescribed exercises, and if the patient has a concern about correct performance, they can refer to these.

Social media is an area that has exploded in the past decade, and a digital presence can give potential patients and clients all the information they need to know with a few simple clicks. General information regarding your clinic is important, but social media can be a great tool for the sharing of valuable information from a reputable source as well. In a time when most people have access to an infinite amount of information with a few taps and swipes of their thumbs, it is invaluable to be a source of quality, trustworthy information regarding their options for health care and what benefits physical therapy holds for each consumer. The production of quality content, be it infographics or short videos, status updates, or live chats is a great way to interact with consumers and provide education to the general public.

Technology can impact all areas of physical therapy. It can aid the practicing clinician; apps for everything from laterality training as related to chronic pain treatment to gait analysis to metronomes for cueing purposes can be used daily in the clinic. Podcasts assist the spread of information for honing skills as well as for exam study and preparation. Meeting apps and Google hangouts can make it possible for individuals from multiple clinics to meet at everyone’s convenience from their own office with no time lost to travel.

Outside of technology, innovation to support the lives of valuable clinicians and staff is important as well. Encourage the pursuit of knowledge to keep clinicians at the forefront of patient care and increase satisfaction of patients and practitioners. Provide activities and incentives for stress relief to improve morale and show appreciation for hard work. Intra-office activities and competitions can build camaraderie and improve health at the same time (step challenge, anyone?). It is as important to support both mental and physical health for employees as it is for the patients they treat.

Part of innovation may be a partnership between a clinician and a yoga studio, gym, CrossFit box, theater group, or other recreational activity in which they are knowledgeable. Utilizing direct access, a PT may be able to provide screening for other participants and build a relationship with the community. As insurance companies continue to discuss rewarding patients for staying healthy rather than just jumping in when a deterioration in health occurs, the general public should have access to knowledgeable professionals regarding healthy lifestyle choices and how to pursue them safely and effectively. Who better than physical therapists to fill this role? This also gives PTs the opportunity to charge on a cash-based option, which can help clients avoid going through insurance at all, getting bogged down by a referral, or dealing with high copays and deductibles.

Emily Teetzen

Emily Teetzen, PT, DPT, is employed with Advanced Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine, a group of clinics located in northeast Wisconsin. She can be reached at Emily@advancedptsm.com.

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

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