The Value of Defining Value


What’s your company approach to defining value for your specific patient population?

By John Vacovec, PT

You might be getting tired of hearing about “value” or “perceived value,” but it is by far the most important component in treating your client. You can have the best clinical skills as a physical therapist, but if you can’t find out what someone’s expectations are for seeing you, then you are missing the opportunity to build a lifelong relationship with your patients. I would like to give you a couple of helpful tools: Definition of value:

  1. the material or monetary worth of something
  2. the worth of something compared to the price paid or asked for it
  3. a person’s principles or standards of behavior: one’s judgment of what is important in life
  4. the quality or tone of a spoken sound

I prefer “perceived value” because as you can see, “value” has so many different meanings to everyone on any given day, but everyone wants it and is demanding it. And why not? The consumer knows exactly what they want and how to get it and they do. The Apple’s and Starbucks of the world know what their customers want and are giving it to them. When people walk into these stores they know they will get a branded, consistent product, guaranteed regardless of location or employee.

I would like to share with you a way to find out what someone’s D.O.S. (Dangers, Opportunities, Strengths) is and show you a customized outline to get your entire team delivering a consistent, branded process of value to help build lifelong relationships regardless of location or physical therapist. We know “value” cannot be described in one sentence but is the driving force for the consumer. We also know that every client that we see has different “perceived values,” and we need to find out what they are in order to provide them with the best therapy experience.

Consumers today are experts in determining what they like, what makes them feel good, and when they are receiving something that is “of value” and if not, they will not hesitate to jump ship if their expectations are not being met. (A tell-tale sign is to take a look at your 4-6 visit dropoff list versus the number of patients completing a full course of treatment.) Remember, what you provide is a commodity (product and service = commodity). It can be gotten anywhere, though most consumers really have no idea what you do. I know, I have surveyed them. Try asking the consumer what you do as a therapist.

If a potential new client asked you or any one of your employees, “What is physical therapy going to do for me?” or “What is a physical therapist?”, how would you respond? Write it down now and in your next meeting ask your staff to do the same. Honestly, no one will be on the same page. Some people still think of us as massage therapists. Others ask whether we are like chiropractors. Here’s my answer: I am an expert in combining hands-on treatment techniques with exercise (and education) to relieve pain and restore motion and strength so you can return to your activities. It is not perfect but it is a start to informing the consumer what we do. Honestly, the general consumer does not know what we do. We will not be recognized as the leaders in relieving pain and musculoskeletal issues unless we all begin telling the consumer what we do. Even with direct access, the consumer is not seeking our services unless they are referred by their doctor, or they have had some past experience with us. We really need to be doing a better job at “driving the brand experience.” Reputations and branding are formed by a sequence of actions that resemble one another. In the industry of physical therapy, our standards vary widely. People like routines, dependability, and consistently knowing what they are going to get, and we need to give it to them. Why not, it is so easy to do every day.

So what are some of the components to create value? Well, here goes: eye contact, smiling, using someone’s name three times, telling your client what you do, asking permission, consistency, “driving the brand experience,” understanding someone’s D.O.S., incorporating three critical components to building a lifelong relationship—Leadership, Relationship, Creativity—and delivering a unique commodity that is consistent among all locations and therapists across the country.


Our staff needs to understand and learn these techniques to create value for someone. Our clients are giving us their precious time and money. Let’s drill down to what the clients want from us:

  • the best therapy experience
  • your focus entirely on meeting their expectations

Tool #1: Understanding Their D.O.S

Dangers—What are the biggest dangers your client is currently facing that need to be eliminated in order for them to achieve their goals?

Opportunities—What are the client’s biggest opportunities to focus on and capture once their dangers are eliminated?

Strengths—What are your client’s biggest strengths, and how will reinforcing and maximizing these lead to their greatest level of confidence, skills, and capabilities?

Health issues are very difficult to navigate. People are looking for guidance. Before you can help someone, you need to know the things that worry them and excite them the most. Understanding what your clients are trying to achieve in their lives is critical to their success. Get inside their minds and find out what they really want and why, and you will jumpstart the healing process for them. But you need to ask them what bothers them the most, what do they fear the most? What is your D.O.S.?


Tool #2: The Best Therapy Experience

We all want every single client of ours to go out and tell their friends and family that they had the best therapy experience. How much would you pay for that? What’s your marketing budget for that kind of referral? But with so many different companies, therapists, and locations, it’s a challenge for the consumer to have a branded experience. One ingredient for success is a consistent process that guarantees the client’s experience. When you go to a Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, or Apple store, you know exactly what you are going to get. It’s predictable, consistent, and dependable. There is a process in place for their product to be consistent and unique no matter where you go. Do you have one? A predictable process, a tool to use—documented in writing so your entire staff and clients can see it. Something that is easy to manage and creates a return on investment that reduces management costs.

My entire company uses the same platform, which creates a unique treatment process. It aligns everyone into a cohesive team reinforcing clarity and consistency with every employee and client regardless of location or therapist. With everyone following the same process, we empower the staff as the primary source of peer-to-peer accountability and do not assume the company leaders are the enforcers. This platform complements and completes our company’s policies, procedures, and agreements that we have with every employee, thus allowing everyone to easily learn and implement the tools of understanding someone’s D.O.S. and following a unique and consistent process of providing “value” to every client.

John Vacovec, PT, is a PPS member and the owner of Physical Therapy & Sports Rehab in Norwood, Massachusetts. He is also the author and developer of The Best Therapy Experience. He can be reached at

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