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Exceptional Quality at Low Prices

It is time for a paradigm shift in marketing.

By Jason Koenigs, PT

Health care is the only sector in our economy in which price is not commonly disclosed or discussed. Ironically, the cost of health care is probably the most often cited area in which containment is paramount. In physical therapy the entire system of billing is set up such that the practitioner needs no knowledge of the cost of the service. Consequently most therapists have no idea what the patient is being charged. With more price-conscious patients and a wide payment disparity between large hospital systems and private practice, the era of the provider being completely naive to the cost of service is necessarily over.

Before entering private practice I was the director of rehabilitation at a regional hospital. As is common, the hospital’s payment from commercial payers was two to three times the reimbursement typical of private practice. That is a huge number. If a private practice averages, for example, $100 for a 45-minute session, then the hospital system can average around $250 for the same treatment. This kind of price difference can only exist in a setting in which price is not openly discussed by both sellers and consumers of health care.

I believe it is time for a paradigm shift in physical therapy marketing. Let’s break all the rules and start talking about payments. With a few simple steps, therapists in private practice can turn our payment disparity liability into our most potent marketing weapon.

As a first step, educate your staff on typical reimbursement per visit. There is no need to disclose the exact rates per code. For marketing purposes, working in averages is just fine and leaves our confidential rates, confidential.

The next phase of the paradigm shift in marketing for physical therapy is to create a spreadsheet of your competitors’ rates. This is a fundamental business necessity for any good or service sold. Could you imagine owning a cleaning service and not knowing what competitors are charging? This will take a little research but it is solved easily enough. Consider calling competitors to get quotes. Do a little secret shopping. When you have the information, compile it and let your staff know the competitions’ average commercial rate. You do not have to name specific competitors unless that is a goal of your advertising campaign. The primary objective should be to instill that private practice equals exceptional quality and lower prices.

Finally, make sure everyone in town knows about the price difference between your practice and the average from the large health system(s). In your marketing you could encourage patients to call around and get quotes to verify your claims. Maybe in another marketing campaign point out a sample coinsurance difference in a 10-visit stretch of therapy. Use all the traditional marketing routes including websites, social media, radio, regional magazines, and newspapers. We have all advertised our superior quality of service; We are simply adding the price component to create demand. Additionally your staff—formally just experts in rehabilitation—are now able to advertise your private practice’s superior price by grassroots word-of-mouth marketing.

A key target group for this marketing strategy is area businesses. Regardless of copay and coinsurance the businesses will benefit from reduced premiums if their workers choose to go to the best-priced facilities. In this way marketing payment prices can improve private practice volumes and help control the cost of health care. With a coordinated effort, achieving the goal of making the words “private practice” synonymous with high-quality care at low cost is a doable and needed change.

Jason Koenigs, PT, is a PPS member and co-owner of Advanced Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine. He practices in Marinette, Wisconsin. He can be reached at jkoenigs@advancedptsm.com.