Incorporating the Annual Physical Therapy Exam into Your Practice
Develop relationships by becoming the trusted provider of choice.
By Darren Rodia, PT, DPT, MS, and Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, MS
Are you asking your patients, “Do you and your family have your own physical therapist?”
Most people have their own family practitioner, their own dentist, and their own hairstylist that they see regularly. Generally, people know which auto mechanic to go to, not just when their car breaks down but also for its regular checkups. Yet our body and our ability to move tend not to be prioritized. Most people only seek help when something goes wrong or when they can’t move the way they want to, and that’s where a physical therapist role traditionally comes in.
Physical therapists can, and should, offer annual physical therapy exams. Preventing, educating, and addressing early signs and symptoms associated with movement dysfunctions makes sense for the well-being of a community. It can even minimize downstream costs associated with movement dysfunctions that are not prevented or addressed early on. Moreover, the annual exam can be an essential part of a practice’s marketing program, attracting new patients and strengthening relationships with current and past patients.
Follow these steps to promote the Annual Physical Therapy Exam in your practice:
1. Make sure you and your team offer a valuable service.
Unfortunately, there are examples of physical therapists questioning, “What do I do with a patient if they aren’t experiencing pain?” To prevent this, ensure all physical therapists are comfortable, competent, and confident in providing a valuable annual physical therapy exam. This should include one-on-one time and the opportunity for the relationship, and ultimately trust, to be developed. This is also a time when the value of physical therapy can be promoted by showing how we can screen and prevent small movement issues from becoming major problems, problems that could result in limitations in mobility, disability, and even surgery.
2. Start with your past and current patients.
Gather contact information at the initial exam of any patient and use it to develop a database. Whether patients are coming in for injuries, pain, or specific diagnoses, educate them on the reasons for and benefits of an annual exam. Consider utilizing a customer engagement product that allows you to send reminders, emails, or texts when their annual exam is due. In addition, to stay “top of mind” and show value to patients, send educational content several times a year.
3. Share real-life stories.
Ask patients for video testimonials on how the annual exam benefited them. Consider writing a patient story that mentions how and why the annual physical therapy exam helped them remain active or maximized their movement abilities. Post these stories and testimonials on your website and social media platforms.
4. Use social media to spread the word.
More and more people are relying on the web and social media for recommendations, solutions, treatment options, and tips on staying healthy. Include details about the Annual Physical Therapy Exam on your website as well as posting on social media platforms frequently. Check out the PPS monthly toolkits (go to ppsapta.org, practice management, marketing resources) to find press releases, newsletter content, and Facebook and Twitter posts specific to the Annual Physical Therapy Exam. Recent titles have included: “Yearly Physical Therapy Visits Are Just as Important as Annual Cholesterol Tests” and “One Annual Health Checkup That’s Probably Missing from Your Calendar.” In addition, consumer-ready content is posted on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/myphystherapy/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/myphystherapist) for member use.
5. Advertise the Annual Physical Therapy Exam.
Advertising can cost a lot of money; however, there are many free opportunities available. Ask local fitness centers, yoga studios, and gyms if you can post a flyer. Even ask at schools, markets, and coffee shops. Don’t limit your outreach. Consider hosting an open house or having an event that serves light and healthy food. This event could educate the public on specific injuries or ailments and include self-screening and interactive activities (consider content from https://www.fitfactorsurvey.org/fit-factor/), provide mini-assessments, and of course educate everyone on the importance of the Annual Physical Therapy Exam. Growing a practice, or any business, requires marketing that is simply about developing strong relationships. The Annual Physical Therapy Exam provides a pathway to develop relationships by becoming the trusted provider of choice for managing any movement dysfunction, but also for preventing it.
The Annual Physical Therapy Exam can also be a useful tool in promoting adjunct programs and services your practice has to offer, helping the maximization of your business’s “lifetime value of a patient” metric. For example, the exam provides an opportunity to educate the patient on the value of physical therapy as well as other services you may offer such as a healthy spine program, dance wellness program, and balance and fall prevention series. The “lifetime value of a patient” metric calculates how valuable a patient is to your practice over a lifetime. If a patient comes for one physical therapy visit only, then they do not provide as much value as those who frequent your clinic. A patient who completes a course of care, returns in the years to come, and refers family and friends, provides a lot more value. The very nature of the Annual Physical Therapy Exam can keep patients and prospective patients coming back through your doors on a consistent basis, increasing their lifetime value.
The Annual Physical Therapy Exam just makes sense! Offering this service could lead to a future where most people have a family physical therapist, and help prevent any future movement dysfunctions, disabilities, and diseases, and of course educating the public on our role as the movement experts.
Darren Rodia, PT, DPT, MS, is a member of the PPS PR and Marketing Committee and chairs the monthly toolkit taskforce. He is the president of Kinetic Physical Therapy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, MS, is the chair of the PPS PR and Marketing Committee and chief executive officer of Performance Physical Therapy in Rhode Island. She can be reached at email@example.com.