Winning over Patients
How to create a service-minded culture at your practice.
By Craig Bouslough, PT, MPT
Recently, one of our technically gifted interns took over the patient load for a seasoned therapist who was recovering from surgery. The upbeat young man, eager to offer the patients outstanding care, set out to win them over with his exceptional science. After a month of working with the therapist’s patients, the intern asked his older colleague, “Can you teach me how to get my patients to love me like your patients love you?” People often ask me, “What is your secret sauce?” referring to the company culture we have created that encourages team members to put others’ needs first. For us, it comes down to just a few things.
START WITH THE INTERVIEW PROCESS
From the first interview to new hire orientation, we spend a lot of time talking about culture. During the interview, we tell prospective employees that this is not going to be the right job for them if they are not willing to grow—as a person and in their position. We invite people to self-select; to decide if they want to be part of something we have deliberately created, which encourages giving and serving. We hire people who want to be held accountable to this goal. It is who they already are. Then we execute a plan that focuses on people and on culture—and sound business— in that order.
INVEST IN THE BEST
Some companies get caught up in managing expenses and take shortcuts in providing the best treatment modalities. We focus on patient care and the business typically takes care of itself. When we approach treatment in this way, we are more inclined to find ways to take better care of patients, which keeps relationships with physicians and patients extremely strong because both parties’ needs are being met.
For example, in several markets we have invested in aquatic therapy, making highly advanced therapeutic pools with underwater treadmill and resistance jets the foundation for those programs. Patients who otherwise could not exercise rigorously with unloaded joints and proper gait patterns now have the opportunity to heal using state-of-the-art technology. This creates trust from both the physicians and the patients because the patients are receiving the absolute best care available.
HAVE A PURPOSE
Folks come to work for us knowing that there are easier places to work. We are open long hours and weekends. They know they will make sacrifices for their patients and that we will hold them accountable to do so. However, they gladly make these sacrifices because they have purpose and vision. For us, it truly is asking the question, “How can we make a difference in the lives of people who we come in contact with today?” We are in a patient-first business and must remind each other why we do what we do. Every staff meeting begins with culture. We do not talk about our care before we talk about culture and we do not talk about business before we talk about care.
On patient satisfaction surveys we do not read about patients receiving profound treatment techniques. We hear about how a therapist walked a patient to her car during a rainstorm or how an assistant built a ramp on his own time at a patient’s home. We are creating connections. Our science is excellent, but most of the time patients do not remember what you said or did—they remember how you made them feel. This action comes with purpose.
PUT FAITH AND FAMILY FIRST
For us, putting first things first gives our team members a great capacity to serve their patients. Human nature leads us to be selfish. Society teaches that is okay, too. We try our best to focus on other people—faith, family, and work in that order. We encourage our staff to step outside of their comfort zone and look for opportunities to serve. It comes back to building relationships and investing in people so that patients experience healing and not just a treatment.
Creating a service-minded culture is labor intensive. It is a constant commitment to invest in the best and put first things first—especially during soft markets and declining reimbursements. For most of us, health care is a calling. As we find ways to reinforce that calling, our team members will feel good about giving—and at a very high level.
Craig Bouslough, MPT,serves as the Chief Development Officer for Drayer Physical Therapy Institute. Drayer PT, a Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, based company, is a leading owner and operator of outpatient physical therapy clinics in the United States. The company has grown to a network of more than 100 clinics across 14 states. Drayer PT utilizes HydroWorx for their aquatic therapy program.