Expanding Your Patient Experience in the Community
How two practices are growing by giving back
By Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT
Creating personal connections with patients has never been more important. Patient referrals, brand reputation, and social media are influencing how and where patients choose to seek care. According to the recent PT Patient Experience Report, “44% of patients are choosing clinics without a doctor’s recommendation, and 89% use other factors, such as social proof (e.g., reviews) and schedule flexibility when deciding where to seek care.”1
However, after two-plus years of a pandemic and social distancing, some practices may be struggling to build the authentic connections so crucial to patient loyalty and employee retention.
One way for physical therapy clinics to create genuine and impactful connections is through community involvement. Extending your patient experience into the community does more than fuel growth by reaching more potential patients. It also strengthens company culture, promotes employee retention, and can attract even more new patients (and keep them coming back). But where to start? Recently, I’ve noticed two outstanding examples of physical therapy clinics extending the patient experience into their respective communities. Here’s how doing so has contributed to their brand, employee experience, patient satisfaction, and clinic growth.
SET YOUR INTENTIONS FOR COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
Before diving into community involvement, it’s important to find your why. That’s what Rehab2Perform, a multi-clinic physical therapy powerhouse based in Maryland, did. Their focus? Nurturing the next generation of physical therapists. With more than 81 contracts with doctor of physical therapy schools across the country, Rehab2Perform provides a student internship experience that allows them to serve the next generation of healthcare professionals in a meaningful way: with hands-on training and valuable resources. This also benefits Rehab2Perform, giving them a deep bench of future physical therapists to hire.
At the same time, this stellar team shows local love through initiatives in medical facilities, fitness centers, businesses, youth sports leagues, and schools. These initiatives help get the word out about Rehab2Perform while having a positive impact on the community.
Meanwhile, Dynamix Physical Therapy, a multi-clinic physical therapy practice in western Tennessee, has embraced youth sports. Whether it’s helping out at a 5K race or sponsoring a summer Little League, Dynamix’s outreach programs keep them highly visible throughout their community. Dynamix also currently offers pro bono sports medicine coverage throughout western Tennessee for 12 of their 17 school partners and sports teams. If you visit Jackson, Brownville, or one of the many other cities in which they have clinics, you’ll find the Dynamix team out on the fields, in the gyms, or at the ballpark working with young athletes to keep them safe and healthy.
“There is a sense of pride and accomplishment when our team steps into the community outside of the clinic walls,” says Russ Huffstetler, DPT, co-owner of Dynamix Physical Therapy. “At Dynamix, it’s a purpose that transcends any one person and brings a sense of togetherness.”
KEEP THE PATIENT EXPERIENCE AT THE CENTER OF YOUR EFFORTS
While each clinic might choose a particular area of interest to pursue, such as young athletes or future physical therapists, community involvement is most effective when it is an extension of the patient experience.
To that end, Dynamix is focused on showing personal interest to each of their patients. Besides working hard to be the best at their craft and encouraging every patient, Dynamix team members also participate in numerous local festivals, serve at soup kitchens during the holidays, ride through Christmas parades, and sponsor multiple summer leagues. They’ve even been invited to their clients’ weddings!
How have they made such an impression on their clients? “We become friends and take a genuine approach to understanding what motivates our customers,” explains Huffstetler. “This has led to life-long relationships that exist beyond the clinic walls. Our entire staff shares in the wins and losses, the happy and the sad, the health and the pain of our customers.”
At the same time, Rehab2Perform focuses a lot of time on adding value to others, without asking for anything in return. “We want to be out and meet people where they are, making sure that we are a community-facing business,” says Josh Funk, DPT, CEO and Founder of Rehab2Perform.
One way that they accomplish this is by setting up a recovery trailer at community events such as local 10k races, CrossFit events, triathlons, and other competitions. With the recovery trailer, Rehab2Perform invites people to spend time with a team of physical therapists and learn about the clinic while using Hyperice and Normatec devices. According to the team, this often leads to meaningful conversations, allowing physical therapists to develop real relationships with prospective clients — much more than what they could accomplish with a booth and free merch.
GIVE BACK FOR GROWTH
Involvement does more than create good feelings — it also boosts the bottom line. Participating in the local community helps build strong relationships and referral sources. In fact, both Dynamix and Rehab2Perform have seen exponential growth as a direct result of their community involvement.
Throughout 2021, Dynamix saw a 33% increase in referrals over the previous year and while that growth is not entirely due to community outreach, their team feels it has played a strong role. Sharing their community involvement on social media has also helped their clinician recruitment efforts. After all, most new grads are checking out social media platforms to vet potential employers and gain insight into the company culture. According to the team, spotlighting their community efforts has helped draw in new talent. With the rehab therapy industry averaging a 9% turnover rate compared to 3.7% in healthcare overall,2 it’s critical to help young talent build strong connections to their careers for long-term retention.
What’s more, the community sees Dynamix as a healthcare authority and reassuring presence in the community. “Parents, coaches, and administration express a sense of comfort knowing that Dynamix is providing expert care on and off the field,” says Huffstetler. “If an athlete gets injured, and that results in a surgery, then that relationship between athletic trainer, student, parent, and coach easily transfers from field to clinic for their rehabilitation.”
Meanwhile, through Rehab2Perform’s efforts, they have become a well-known brand in their surrounding communities, which has had a potential correlation to their year-over-year growth. As a result, they’ve secured spots on the Inc. 5000 list of Fastest Growing Companies for three consecutive years and have been recognized as an Inc. Best Workplace in 2020.
Most of Rehab2Perform’s patients are active adults, competitive athletes, and other individuals who are seeking help to be more active. Surprisingly, it’s estimated that less than 20% of their patients come via physician referral. Instead, Rehab2Perform has worked hard to cultivate an ecosystem of marketing relationships with businesses, schools, youth sports leagues, medical facilities, and fitness centers to spread the word about their services. “When it comes to having value in a community,” says Funk, “people need to know who you are, what you do, and how you solve people’s problems. When people know who you are, they’ll think of you when the time is right.”
What opportunities exist for your clinic to help your local community? By seizing the right ones, your clinic can be a force for good in the community — all while bolstering company culture and boosting the bottom line.
1WebPT. “The PT Patient Experience Report.” Accessed August 4, 2022. https://get.webpt.com/patient-experience-report.
2WebPT. “The State of Rehab Therapy 2022.” Accessed August 4, 2022. https://get.webpt.com/state-of-rehab-therapy-2022
Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, is based in Phoenix, AZ. She is the co-founder and chief clinical officer at WebPT and the founder of Rizing Tide Foundation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn.