Promote Your Practice
Message the value of your profession and your practice.
By Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, MS, OCS
The public’s perception of private practice physical therapy is generally disappointing. As a profession we have struggled to come up with terms or statements that truly help the public understand what we do and who we are. Therefore, when marketing and promoting our practices, messaging “the value of our profession and our practices” is essential.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary’s full definition of value begins with: a fair return or equivalent in goods, services, or money for something exchanged. In our practices, physical therapy is exchanged for money, and we expect fair payment for the care received. With the overall decline in reimbursement and the increasing costs of business, many believe we are not receiving payment that reflects the value of the care we provide. Commonly heard statements in private physical therapy practices include: “I can’t afford a $25 copayment,” “My insurance should pay for this,” and from physicians, “I just give patients with back pain an exercise handout so they don’t need to go to physical therapy.” These are consumers, our patients, our colleagues, and so many do not know or understand the value of what we do. Poor payment for our services may be the result of poor recognition and messaging of our value. Maybe this is not the fault of the consumers, patients, or payers, but of our own profession and practices.
Unfortunately, physical therapists often do not graduate from programs with the knowledge and ability to advocate and message the value of their services. This is highlighted with comments such as “Recommend treatment once a week due to the high copayment” and “I don’t like selling—we should just give away exercise bands.” In addition, devaluing comes from being paid for the time we spend with patients or the “things we do” rather than for the outcomes. Spending 30 minutes providing manual therapy, exercises, and education for a woman with low back pain has a significantly lesser perceived value than giving a new mother the ability to carry, transfer, and care for her newborn without pain.
Marketing and promoting a practice and our profession requires defining and messaging our value. A higher perceived value of the service or product will result in higher payment. A recent study in the Harvard Business Review identified 30 “elements of value.”1 These elements fall into four categories: functional, emotional, life changing, and social impact. In the study, generally the more elements of value a company had, the greater the customers’ loyalty and the higher the company’s revenue growth. Also, elements in the functional category (reduced costs, quality, saves time, informed) tended to be less influential than elements of value in the other categories (provides hope, reduces anxiety, motivation, affiliation and belonging, therapeutic value, and wellness).
In developing a marketing plan, determine the elements of value that define your practice. Ensure your team is comfortable speaking to these elements. Examples include: “Seeing low back pain patients in the acute phase reduces health care costs,” “Physical therapy will not only promote a safe return to sport but will also address and prevent future potential injuries’’ and “Even after this injury resolves, you can contact us at any time with questions—we are here to help.” Administrative staff, physical therapists, and support staff can all discuss the elements of value for your practice with patients, referral sources, and the community.
The elements of value of your services can be shared with social media, your website, brochures, and press releases. Writing a blog on “running a 5K,” for example, provides motivation and hope, promoting patient satisfaction scores reduces anxiety, and listing partnerships with schools and businesses adds the value of affiliation and belonging.
Physical therapy should be perceived to be of a high value if there is messaging that reflects the elements of the value of your practice. Maybe a grassroots effort with physical therapists being given the language and skills to message our value will lead to an improved understanding of our role and value in health care delivery.
1. Almquist, E, Senior, J, Bloch, N. The elements of value. Harvard Business News, September 2016.Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, 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.