The Gift that Keeps on Giving
By Don Levine, PT, DPT, FAFS
We hope that you have started the New Year off with meaningful planning and a positive outlook. As we look ahead to February, we offer some public relations ideas that you can implement in your practice to increase your community visibility and drive business through your doors. Last year, we offered you thoughts on National Girls and Women’s Health Day, as well as couples workouts for Valentine’s Day. This year, we are staying with the Valentine theme, but providing our consumers with two clear messages:
- You do not need a referral from your doctor to access physical therapy.
- Give your spouse or loved one the gift of physical therapy.
Direct Access: The Choice Is Yours
Do your consumers know that they can access your services without a referral from their physician? Do they know why this is important? Do they understand the training required to become a physical therapist?
While states vary in their regulations for direct access to physical therapy services, currently 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC) allow physical therapists to evaluate patients without a prior physician’s referral and 48 states and DC improve accessibility further by allowing physical therapists to evaluate and treat.1 The APTA or your state chapter can provide you with the specific details of Direct Access in your state. Spread the word in your communities.
Educate your community. Why is it important? With the steady increase in health care costs, direct access to a physical therapist can help curb the flow. The APTA reports that states and the insurance companies that pay under direct access will realize cost savings of approximately $1,200 per patient episode of care according to the results of a recent study by Dr. Jean Mitchell and Dr. Greg de Lissovoy of Georgetown University and Johns Hopkins University, respectively.1 Spread the word to your consumers, your legislators, your third party payers.
Opponents to direct access will propose that physical therapists do not have the skills to protect patients in a self-referral model. To date, there is no objective data indicating that self-referral to a physical therapist puts patients at increased risk. Also, there is nothing indicating that self-referred patients consume more health care dollars during or after their physical therapy care episode.2 Physical therapists are also trained to recognize red flags that may signal the need for more invasive medical intervention. In those cases, referral to your physician or health care provider is immediate.2 Dedicate the month of February to inform and educate your consumers on the particulars of direct access in your state. This education will set the stage for your Valentine’s Day message.
The Gift that Keeps on Giving!
Now that our consumers are aware that they can access you directly, let’s focus on the Valentine’s Day and a “gift that keeps on giving.” What could be more appropriate than the gift of wellness and better function? Who better prepared to provide this than their physical therapist? Can your practice develop a campaign to spread this message and target your community?
Ideas to Get You Started
Back pain affects 80 percent of the population at some point in their lives. Is back pain limiting your loved one’s golf game? Give them the gift of a pain-free swing. Is your new bundle of joy increasing your wife’s (or husband’s) back and neck pain? Let us provide her (or him) with more comfort.
Climbing the corporate ladder is tough with knee pain. If your loved one is struggling to reach their goals because of pain, give them the gift of healthy knees to improve their spring to reach the top.
Know your audience and understand your strengths. Your campaign should be unique to your practice and your market. Gather your staff and make Valentine’s Day a special one for you and your communities!
1. Website www.apta.org/StateIssues/DirectAccess/Overview/ Accessed November 2014.
2. Website www.physicaltherapy.about.com/od/typesofphysicaltherapy/f/What-Is-Direct-Access-To-Physical-Therapy.htm Accessed November 2014.
Don Levine, PT, DPT, FAFS, is chair of the marketing and public relations committee and co-owner of Olympic Physical Therapy with five locations in Rhode Island. He can be reached at email@example.com.