A Flourishing Future

Future Arrows

Tips to ensure success.

By Kim Stamp

The future of private practice physical therapy is definitely full of challenges. These challenges come in the form of hospital systems, physician-owned practices, and insurance reimbursements. There is no easy formula for predicting the future, much less predicting how to arrive at a successful future. Continued success, as a private physical therapy practice, requires us to look back at trends and then look forward as we formulate strategic plans that will carry us into the coming years. While getting those strategic plans in place is important, there are three simple things we can do to secure a healthy practice that will weather the challenges that we will inevitably face in the health care field. By creating strong employee engagement, stellar patient experiences, and solid community involvement, you can invest in your practice’s health and create long-term success. More than ever, I am convinced that without these three things, we have little chance of flourishing in the rehab environment. For me, it all boils down to one main thing: valuing people. My patients, employees, and those who provide referrals are all important to me, and I always want to communicate that through my respectful attention and care to all those I am in contact with. Let’s look at how “keeping the main thing the main thing” can lead to a flourishing practice in the future.

As an administrator, I am responsible not only for the hiring of our employees, but also for making sure that our company vision is being manifested in each of our clinics on a daily basis. Each new hire is mentored in the art of customer service as well as in how to express the company values we hold dear. This past week, after hiring a candidate who appeared to be a great hire to work the front desk at one of our clinics, I quickly realized that she was disengaged and constantly asking to leave early. On day three I let her know that her services were no longer needed. The main thing I look for in a new hire is their willingness to invest in, and engage with, our company and the patients who trust us for their care. I mention this fresh example to make the point that employee engagement can either make or break your business. Jeff Boss brilliantly wrote that “Employee engagement is the one competitive advantage that turns good companies into great ones and mediocre service into a memorable experience” (“3 Principles Leaders Must Follow to Build Employee Engagement,” Forbes.com, Oct. 27, 2014). I don’t know about you but it’s my desire to provide memorable experiences for our patients and to have a great company!

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Creating a culture that promotes strong employee engagement begins with communication and ends with action. Administrators and owners must clearly communicate the values and vision of the company and then demonstrate how those values are portrayed. We also must be quick to respond to employee feedback, especially if there is a problem or conflict involved. Lastly, we need to keep ourselves from micromanaging our staff. One of the biggest killers of employee engagement is excessive meddling, which creates an environment of distrust. As much as is possible, we need to hire the best people for the job and then let them do their job.

Along with strong employee engagement, we absolutely must create stellar experiences for our patients. Patients choose where to complete their rehabilitation, and there is a lot of competition for new patients, especially from the hospital- and physician-owned practices. With today’s rising copays and deductibles, patients will not tolerate being treated as though they are not valued. One of the best ways to secure a bright and successful future for your practice is to treat your patients as though they are a precious and valued resource. In order to do that well, you have to believe it yourself! And not just you, but the people who work with you as well. Take some time to evaluate how you receive and welcome new patients. Consider doing simple things like taking the time to send handwritten thank you notes after the initial evaluation or setting up a coffee station in your waiting room. Make sure that your front office staff welcome patients warmly and that care extenders, if utilized, are paying more attention to your patients than they are to the laundry that needs to be folded. I have long said that a patient could receive the best therapy in the city and not return to a clinic due to a poor experience with support staff!

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The last component of our toolkit for success is engaging in solid community involvement. Gone are the days when we only had to market to the physicians we so desperately wanted referrals from. In today’s health care environment, we must have comprehensive marketing strategies that include both internal marketing (what happens inside our clinic walls) and external marketing (what happens outside in our community). We must decide to be a force rather than a field. Let me explain: In the past, we were more a field than a force. We waited for patients to come to us via referrals from the doctors we marketed to. Now, we must be more of a force that is present in the community and engaged with potential patients. A field waits for people to show up; a force proactively makes themselves known in positive ways.

There are many ways to be involved in your community. From volunteering to organize and staff a medical tent at a local race to doing health fairs, you can easily find creative ways to get your name in front of those who may need rehab services in the future. Many communities have local online news sources that are looking for both sponsors (advertising) and authors to contribute content. This is a nice way to show off your expertise to a large group of people. Lastly, you can hold free seminars within your clinic(s) to highlight a particular treatment or technique that is highly effective. These are just a few ideas to get you going in the right direction. Time spent investing in your community is well worth the effort.

The future of PT may not be easily predictable, but there are some key things that you can do to secure a successful future. Concentrating on creating strong employee engagement, stellar patient experiences, and solid community investment will put you in a position to weather change and flourish in your practice.

Kim Stamp is the regional business manager for South Sound Physical & Hand Therapy in Olympia and Tacoma, and the president for the Washington State Physical Therapy Managers Association. She can be reached at kim.stamp@irgpt.com.

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