Reimagining the Physical Therapy Experience

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Changing the delivery of physical therapy to meet the needs of patients and therapists.

By Khanh Pham*

The world is changing, and the needs of patients and those providing care are changing along with it.

Amazon and Uber are just two examples of companies that have achieved incredible success by engaging with customers to deliver new technologies that meet their demands. While health care has historically been slow to adapt to customer needs, more and more patients and employers are demanding that health care change as well.

As a result of customer desires, health care companies are also evolving in order to reimagine the patient and physical therapist experience by providing on-demand care to patients in need of outpatient therapy services. The platforms connects high-quality therapists to motivated patients seeking the flexibility and convenience of service offered in their home, gym, or office. The goal is to create quality outcomes for patients and a flexible work schedule for therapists. Innovation occurs when challenges in the current systems are found. These new and innovative practice models help to remove the challenges of a patient completing their full course of physical therapy care. It is centered on convenience for both the patient and therapist. Another side benefit is that physical therapists who are looking for a flexible work environment and quality of life are attracted to platforms such as these.

A New Approach to Accessible Care

Today’s physical therapists are facing unprecedented burnout rates that substantially exceed the national averages of U.S. workers in other fields.1 Practice owners are feeling the brunt of this burnout by way of turnover costs, lost morale, and decreased productivity. These issues, coupled with the rapid rise of insurance premiums and high-deductible health plans, are forcing some clinics to make up for their losses by overbooking their physical therapists with a higher volume of patients per day, furthering the cycle of burnout, exhaustion, and disenchantment. This type of constant stress at work can impact the quality of care patients receive.

It is possible to do things differently. Here are three essential features that have can redefine the physical therapy experience.

Meeting Therapist Needs

The independent workforce is growing five times faster than traditional employment.2 By 2020, 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers.3 It’s clear that today’s workforce is seeking a more flexible work experience where rigid schedules and work assignments aren’t the norm.

Taking a note from on-demand business models like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb, it was found that a unique practice could be created that puts physical therapists in control. Every physical therapist works as an independent business owner, helping them achieve a high level of flexibility and independence. Therapists enjoy the freedom that comes from dictating when they work, how much they work, and where they work.“I see about six to eight patients a week, and my experience has been absolutely wonderful,” says Heather B., a physical therapist with Luna. “Everything runs so smoothly, and I really appreciate the flexibility of scheduling my own hours.”

If you opt for an on-demand practice model, it can allow physical therapists to work for themselves, set their own hours, and access a diverse set of patients. Rather than worrying about billing, patient marketing, or scheduling, physical therapists get to enjoy all the benefits of business ownership without any of the administrative headaches. As a result, therapists are freed up to provide superior care to patients.

Access to Modern Technology

Technology is the driving force behind the rapid change in today’s marketplace, and it can be embraced to streamline processes and create more enjoyable physical therapy experiences. From modern scheduling tools to 24/7 access to a concierge assistant, from easy patient matching to predicted drive times between patient visits, therapists have everything they need to stay focused on quality care.

To make things even easier, apps can allow patients to easily schedule appointments and therapists to set their own schedules. This kind of accessibility and flexibility is giving physical therapists in all walks of life a way to take control of their work life without sacrificing their personal pursuits. Perhaps the physical therapist is a full-time employee in a clinical setting looking for supplemental income, a new mom wanting to get back into the workforce and in need of flexibility, or an entrepreneur using the platform as a primary source of income. Regardless of the situation, this type of innovative practice model accounts for it all and creates a win-win scenario between therapists and patients.

Streamlined EMR Requirements

Innovative platforms have also found a way to tackle one of the most significant pain points that all physical therapists share—documentation. Rather than forcing independent physical therapists to undergo the painful and time-consuming process of identifying their own EMR (electronic medical record) solution, they can act as a front and back office. A thoughtful documentation system allows therapists to complete documentation quickly, allowing physical therapists to spend more time with patients and increase their quality of care.

By prioritizing a better experience for therapists, innovative platforms are enabling better care and patient outcomes. By asking the right questions and staying open to new possibilities, it’s possible to meet the evolving needs of patients, therapists, and providers.

Innovation is key in the ever changing healthcare world and we can look to companies like Luna, Movement-X, MedBridge, and Mobile Rehab to serve as inspiration for innovation in healthcare.


References:

1Campo MA, Weiser S, Koenig KL. Job strain in physical therapists. Physical Therapy Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association. September 2009.

2Muhammed A. 4 Reasons Why the Gig Economy Will Only Keep Growing In Numbers. Forbes (blog), June 28, 2017.

3MBO Partners, MBO Partners state of independence in America 2015. 2015.

Khahn Pham

Khahn Pham is a head of Therapist Network Development with Luna Care, Inc. She can be reached at Khanh@getluna.com.

*This author has a professional affiliation with this subject.

Copyright © 2018, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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