Secure Your Practice’s Bottom Line
The key to providing cash-based pre-habilitation services.
By Larry Briand, MS, PT, ATC
Workers’ compensation costs and high Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable rates are devastating to companies. When a workplace injury occurs, employers are forced to pay large medical claim expenses for the injured worker, account for productivity loss, and train additional or new staff members. Unfortunately, most employers do not realize that many workplace injuries stem from poor body mechanics and repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). With these injuries and accompanying costs on the rise, companies are seeking cost-effective injury prevention programs now more than ever. As rehabilitation experts, we can become their resource by providing on-site consultation and/or first aid services. Through such pre-habilitation solutions, you not only become your community’s destination center for industrial medicine, but also secure your practice’s bottom line through cash-based services.
Workers’ compensation claims are at an all-time high. In 2011, the average direct cost per medically consulted workplace injury was $37,000. This includes the estimate of wage losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, and employer costs. In addition, there were 5,000,000 medically consulted injuries caused in the workplace.1 Although not all companies face large workers’ compensation claims, others are affected by high OSHA recordable rates. High rates also create a large frustration for employers; the higher this rate, the higher the cost of workers’ compensation premiums to the employer.
To combat this, many employers have implemented injury prevention programs, including stretching programs, but complain that employees are “just going through the motions.” Being a rehabilitation professional, you understand the common musculoskeletal injuries and RSIs that can occur on a day-to-day basis. Because of this, you are able to implement the most effective pre-habilitation programs to help employers reduce injuries and costs. In fact, companies that hire physical therapists for on-site preventive services have been known to decrease injuries by 75 percent.2
Now that you realize your full potential and the value you can bring to local companies, you may wonder “Where’s the best place to start for business-to-business networking?” I am a strong believer that the best marketing tool is a patient’s testimonial and word-of-mouth referral. Use this to your advantage. If you currently have any workers’ compensation patients in your clinic, see if they would be willing to discuss their experiences with their supervisor or human resources manager. If possible, see if the patient is also comfortable providing you with this individual’s name and contact information. By networking this way, you show key decision makers that you already have a connection with the company. You may also be able to offer valuable insight on how your preventive services could have assisted in avoiding your patient’s injury. Other business-to-business networking opportunities include attending local Rotary club and Chamber of Commerce meetings. If allowed, ask if you can lead a meeting and demonstrate some simple injury prevention techniques to stir questions and interest. Lastly, there is the cold-calling method. The key to cold calling is persistence. Even if a company does not seem interested at the initial contact, “extensive marketing studies have shown that the typical customer must have at least 17 impressions of a brand before they consider trying it.”3 Don’t be alarmed if you hear the dreaded “not at this time” response. Stay in the forefront of the company’s mind to create “mind-share real estate,”3 or the practice they think of first when they are ready to implement preventive services.
Once a company shows interest in your preventive services, focus on scheduling a meeting with the key decision makers, such as the human resources manager or safety manager. Use this meeting as a mini presentation period to showcase the value of your services. If possible, invite someone from the safety committee to the meeting. Prior to presenting, be sure to do your research—do not go into the meeting unprepared! Internet searching will allow you to determine the type of job tasks that are most likely to be performed in the company, as well as how many locations are offered, and the company’s mission/value goals. In addition, ask your main meeting contact plenty of questions to learn:
- How large is the company/number of employees?
- Are multiple shifts offered?
- How are employees recruited (staffing agency or direct hire)?
- Are any preventive services currently being offered and are they effective?
- Are there any commonly seen injuries occurring?
By learning the answers to these questions, you will be able to tailor your presentation to the company’s needs. Remember, no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. By offering a solution to the common problems facing an employer and showing that you care by taking the extra time to research their needs, you become valuable. As I like to phrase it, when you make it all about the other person, it becomes all about you. Stay calm during the meeting and answer all questions as accurately and fully as possible. Be careful not to falsely advertise or over-promise things you are not able to provide.
Dependent upon a company’s needs and issues, several on-site solutions are available that you may be able to provide including:
- On-site First Aid Services: Schedule regular hours at a company where employees can visit you to discuss their aches and pains. The goal is not to provide clinical treatment, but to offer first aid services and advice before an ache turns into an injury/recordable. This includes education, applying heat or cold, and/or massage. Provide posters to encourage employees to visit you during your scheduled hours.
- Ergonomic Assessments: Although most employers are now familiar with the term, many do not realize that an employee’s workstation must be modified to fit the employee to prevent RSIs, not the other way around. As an expert in RSIs, you can become a valuable resource by offering simple and cost-effective ideas on how to tailor an employee’s workstation to avoid potential injuries waiting to happen.
- Stretching Programs: When implemented correctly, stretching programs can be of great value. Not only do they help prevent injuries by increasing an employee’s flexibility and range of motion, but also improve circulation, coordination and posture, and help reduce stress. Ideally, stretching programs should be available at each shift and tailored to each employee’s position.
- Fit-for-Duty Testing: Whether performing post-offer pre-employment (POPE) testing or making sure injured workers entering back into the field are fit-for-duty, be sure that you are compliant with applicable laws and understand all testing rules and regulations. For example, if providing POPE testing, you must test all individuals for a specific department/position and remain unbiased through objective testing.
Tailor your services to each company based upon their needs. Determine pricing and hours prior to providing services, as well as the invoicing method. These cash-based services will assist in protecting your practice’s bottom line, especially at a time when we are constantly fighting for the consumer’s health care dollar. Although some practices have offered services for free to get their foot in the door, I strongly discourage this practice. It is hard to put a price on services when a company is accustomed to receiving them complimentarily.
As rehabilitation professionals, we can be the most valuable resources to companies by implementing effective pre-habilitation programs. When seeking to create business-to-business networking opportunities, remember to look within your own clinic doors first, and do not be alarmed by rejection. Always research a company’s needs prior to meeting with them to show your value. Be willing to tailor cash-based consultation and first-aid services specific to each company. This formula will allow you to become your community’s destination center for industrial rehabilitation, while also securing a strong foundation for your practice’s bottom line.
Larry Briand, MS, PT, ATC, is a PPS member and the founder and chief executive officer of Rehab Management Solutions in Sturtevant, Wisconsin. Larry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. National Safety Council Injury Facts. 2013 Edition. Itasca, IL: National Safety Council; 2013.
2. “RMS Solutions.” RMS Work Injury Program Initiative. Rehab Management Solutions, n.d. Web. 02 May 2013.
3. Mefford, C, Lovett, L. BrandFormation: How to Transform Your Good Healthcare Practice Into a Great Local Brand. USA: Lighthouse Communications; 2010.