Understand Your Patients to Maximize Your Marketing Efforts

patients in doc office

Using a Benchmarking System to Track, Measure, and Capitalize on Patient Data

By Peter Decoteau

Do you know where your patients are coming from?

I don’t mean geographically–we can mostly assume that our patients are coming from our community or neighboring towns–but how did they find you? Why did they choose your clinic, and how can you use that information to acquire new patients?

The job of a physical therapist is to help people move and feel better, and for clinic owners and directors that task is compounded by the responsibilities of leadership. Adding high-level marketing strategy to that list seems impossible, and so many clinicians and clinic owners blindly put resources behind marketing efforts that may or may not have the return on investment (ROI) that make them worthwhile.

Discovering and capitalizing on data that highlights your most effective marketing strategies does not have to be an impossible task though, and these actions can yield exponential benefits for your clinic.

Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, MS and Scott Wick are founding members of the PPS Marketing Committee, and they’ve put together a comprehensive system to help clinic owners identify and leverage the source of patient referrals. The ultimate goal is to do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t. Sounds easy, right?

In a new webinar available on the PPS website, Michelle and Scott take a deep dive into their method of benchmarking, which aims to categorize patients based on influencers, implementing a system to accurately collect data on new patients and why they’ve chosen your clinic, and measuring the return on investment for specific marketing initiatives. Their method is broadly outlined below, but I highly recommend you watch the whole webinar before implementing your own benchmarking.


Before you can start to understand data, it’s important to know what you’re looking for. Start with a goal you want to achieve, and then choose key performance indicators (KPIs) that support those goals. The metrics that you uncover from your KPIs will guide you to success by understanding what’s working and what’s not.

There are two types of KPIs: lead indicators and lag indicators. Lag indicators include things like new patients and revenue; they are retrospective and unchangeable. Obviously these are important numbers, but they only tell you what has happened previously – not very helpful in achieving goals in the future. Lead indicators are prognostic and actionable; they can be measured in real time and, if used correctly, can help to drive lag indicators.


Michelle and Scott’s tiered classification of new patient referral sources provides lead indicators that help you understand why they’ve come to you for physical therapy. The more you understand the why, the more you can use it to drive future marketing decisions and drive new patient growth.

Tier 1 is a primary influencer and seeks to understand if a patient came to physical therapy after receiving a physician referral or through Direct Access.

Tier 2 is a secondary influencer and seeks to understand why the patient ended up in your specific clinic or with a specific provider. This is where the real, valuable data collection begins, as it measures the marketing factors that influenced a patient’s decision to visit your clinic. Note that this includes both Direct Access and physician referrals. While self-referred patients may find you through a Google search or a friend’s recommendation, physician-referred individuals may not have been referred to a specific clinic, and so how they found you is still relevant, important data that can be used.

Tier 3 is a tertiary influencer, exploring with more specificity, the source of the Tier 2 influencers, allowing clinics to identify and evaluate ROI of specific marketing initiatives. For example, if a new patient chooses your practice because of an advertisement they saw (Tier 2 influencer), the Tier 3 influencer is narrowing down to which advertisement–print, social media, digital, etc.


By tracking Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 influencers, you can better understand your patients and why they chose to come to your clinic. This, in turn, allows you to understand which marketing initiatives are working so you can put more of your time and resources creating benchmarks for your lead indicators–strategizing, implementing, and measuring those efforts.

It’s vital, then, that you capture accurate information by talking to the patients and asking them what influenced their decision to choose you as their physical therapy provider. If you are not taking the time to collect accurate data, then your results will be inaccurate and inefficient, and you will have no understanding of your patients or what marketing initiatives are working.

marketing action item
Peter Decoteau

Peter Decoteau is the Director of Marketing at Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Centers (PTSMC), Connecticut’s largest private practice physical therapy company. He can be reached at peter.decoteau@ptsmc.com.

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