The Best Therapy Experience
By John Vacovec | Review By Erik Holmes, PT, MSPT
I was first introduced to The Best Therapy Experience, by John Vacovec, PT, at an Empower conference hosted by Clinicient. John was the keynote speaker for the conference, and hearing him discuss his philosophy of creating the best therapy experience really hit home for me. I was (and still am) a very new practice owner, and while I had years of experience as a manager building a practice, this was the first time that the success or failure of the practice would significantly affect me personally, professionally, and financially. The conference took place in the spring of 2015 in Boston, which is where my clinic is located, and we were still digging out of the snowiest winter in history. Needless to say, the winter of 2015 was a cold slap in the face to a new practice owner, and I was feeling a little desperate and looking for ways to get the clinic back on a productive track. I ordered John’s book with the hope that I would learn something new and amazing.
The first chapter of The Best Therapy Experience focuses on what John feels is “wrong” with the physical therapy industry as a whole. Many practitioners have differing opinions, but I agree with John’s assessment that physical therapy as a profession is fragmented and poorly understood by the consumer and the referring medical community. Physical therapists are experts in musculoskeletal dysfunction, yet most consumers do not understand the services we provide. I cannot count the number of times that I have had a patient tell me, “I do not know why I am here; my doctor told me I need to come to physical therapy.” Or “You guys are like chiropractors, right?” If patients understood the array of services physical therapists provide we would probably never hear such statements. As a result of this confusion, physical therapists are frequently one of the last health care professionals a patient will seek out. Patients often come to physical therapists after trying chiropractors, massage therapists, etc. After John does a strong job laying out his beliefs on the identity crises our profession currently faces, he quickly moves on to how we can become a patient’s first choice.
The strong message of his book is that the key to success is value. To provide the best therapy experience, it all comes down to the patient’s perceived value of the services provided. Every customer, no matter who they are or what they are looking for, wants value. This is no different for our patients, and in many cases, physical therapists are not sufficiently educating their patients about the value we can provide.
Under our current health care system, physical therapy is basically turning into a cash business with increasing copays and plans with high deductibles. Patients want to receive a lot for their hard-earned money, and they also want their time to be well utilized. Patients have busy lives, and they need to feel that we are worth giving up an hour or more for appointments. If you and your staff demonstrate that they provide the best value, then patients will stay with you and keep coming back. If you are fortunate, they may also refer their friends and family.
These are all commonsense concepts, and many private practices already provide value to their patients, but John takes it a step further. As a practice owner and physical therapist, I will do everything necessary to provide the best possible treatment and accommodate a patient’s demanding schedules. I am sure that I am not alone in my dedication to my patients and referral sources. However, what about the rest of the clinic’s staff? Do they have the same dedication? To provide the best therapy experience, the entire rehabilitation team needs to have the same customer service focus. To foster that patient-centered approach it is essential to hire the right staff and train them properly. John does a great job of examining the individual components of training in several chapters, all necessary to fostering a long-lasting patient-therapist relationship. I have adopted many of these approaches and training methods in my practice and have started to see the benefits.
The last chapter, and probably the most helpful, is a series of interviews with talented, well-respected orthopedic surgeons, physiatrists, and primary care physicians. John asks several great questions that provide insight into what our referral sources think of physical therapists. This chapter provides a glimpse into the physician’s world, which can now be used to advantage in marketing strategies that highlight the value of physical therapy. After all, referring physicians are consumers too, and they expect value.
I have enjoyed reading John’s work and found it thought-provoking and insightful. I have recommended the book to other physical therapists and private practice providers because the ideas and concepts are about providing value. Patients who experience the value of timely and successful rehabilitation are critical to a thriving physical therapy practice. I encourage you to read this book and start creating “the best therapy experience” in your facility.
Erik Holmes, PT, MSPT,is the managing partner of Blue Hills Sports & Spine Rehabilitation Boston, LLC, part of the Pinnacle Rehabilitation Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.