Physical therapy can improve patients' lives in many ways, including increased range of motion, quality of life, physical activity, and chronic pain management. These outcomes can be hindered by negative physical therapy experiences. While not all factors that affect patient experience are within the physical therapists' control, there are some things PTs can do to ensure they provide the highest level of care to their patients. This article will discuss the benefits of a positive physical therapy experience and eight ways you can improve the physical therapy experience for your patients.
Patient retention is a significant problem in the physical therapy industry. Patients often fail to complete their course of care, their rate of no-shows is high, and it's challenging to communicate with them about their progress.
The onboarding process is particularly frustrating for physical therapy patients. A patient survey by Prompt shows that 73.9 percent of surveyed patients were dissatisfied with the onboarding process, making it the primary reason for patients stopping their treatment early. The high number of intake forms was the most common complaint, especially when it required the patient to provide the same information multiple times.
The inability to book appointments online is another significant barrier to retaining physical therapy patients. 68.2 percent of respondents wanted to schedule their appointments from their phones, but most clinics still require their patients to do so at the front desk. Modern software can address this issue, especially if it's specific to physical therapy.
The no-show rate in physical therapy is 14.1 percent, meaning a patient misses 1 in 7 scheduled visits. This trend is a problem for clinics because they must turn patients away once their schedules are full. Each no-show thus costs clinics revenue, both from the patient who didn't show and the patient they could not schedule.
A positive patient experience also increases referrals. A study in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Physical Sports Therapy shows that about three-fourths of patients were referred to their physical therapist by their primary care physician, with the remaining fourth obtaining therapy via direct access. In three-fourths of cases, patient referrals occurred at the initial therapy session, most of which occurred due to the primary presenting symptoms. These symptoms included those that were inconsistent with the primary physician's initial diagnosis, symptoms that worsened without cause, and unusual accompanying symptoms.
Enhanced patient experiences also lead to improved outcomes. A study published in Advances in Physiotherapy investigated the effects of active patient involvement in achieving goals in physical therapy. Patients in the control group received treatment with traditional methods, while the study group received intervention therapy in which both the physical therapist and patient established treatment goals. An analysis of post-therapy surveys showed that patients in the intervention group were more likely to achieve positive results for metrics such as strength, balance, and range of motion. These patients also gave higher scores for quality of care.
These results show that improved patient experience helps clinics stand out from their competition, ultimately increasing revenue. Here are eight easy ways to create a more caring and patient-centric practice to improve physical therapy patient experiences.
Effective communication between patients and healthcare providers is necessary and can help provide instant answers to customers' concerns to improve patient satisfaction further.
Pay attention to how your patients and staff communicate and respond to them appropriately. Software for private PT practices comes in handy to securely message staff quickly and communicate with patients effectively via text messaging, online portals, and email. It also increases access to information, including online medical records, which can improve self-monitoring and patient convenience. Happier staff means better communication, which translates to better patient care.
When working to improve communication with patients, make sure your staff provides excellent service too. Introduce a patient satisfaction survey to track how satisfied your patients are with the quality of service and communication with staff and doctors. Under the VBP programs, patient experience is determined by the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey, which is among the most recognized patient satisfaction survey in this sector. Ensure your PT website is easy to navigate and provides patients with the necessary information.
For starters, you can include an FAQ section on your site with questions and answers that patients frequently ask. Also, include common forms on your website that patients can download and fill out before their appointment. In addition, use social media and email campaigns to provide outreach and market your brand.
A clinic with a positive, healthy culture is vital for providing the best possible patient experience. Culture sets the tone for a session, so physical therapists with positive energy will form closer relationships with their patients. Such a relationship helps patients feel more comfortable and more likely to trust the physical therapist. Improving company culture in a physical therapy practice requires you to set reasonable expectations and follow through with them.
For example, you should create opportunities that allow therapists to grow personally and professionally. This practice is critical in a small practice, where you know the goals of each team member. This information allows them to broaden their skill sets, such as by giving front-office staff more managerial responsibilities. In addition, clinicians can begin offering new physical therapy services to different patient populations.
Personal integrity is a crucial trait for a physical therapy practice owner. Team members tend to emulate their leaders, meaning they will adopt your actions, attitudes, and behavior. In particular, you must avoid unethical or illegal behavior.
Setting expectations for each employee is also required to develop a strong workplace culture. This practice includes developing an employee manual that clearly defines guidelines for their behavior and the consequences for failing to meet those expectations. It's also essential to provide regular, specific feedback, particularly for retaining staff members.
Clinic owners don't need to provide staff members with every detail of their business operations, but they need to provide as much transparency as possible. Secrecy breeds gossip and resentment, which are antithetical to creating a healthy workplace culture. It's imperative to share future plans regarding the clinic and its staff members.
Staff who manage most of the practice's non-clinical work, especially the front desk, are critical to improving patient experiences. Studies show that patients who left negative reviews often did so because of negative experiences with the front desk staff, wait time, physical environment, billing, and appointment access.
When patients walk into your practice, the front desk staff should welcome them with a friendly smile and provide a quick check-in. To improve the patient experience in your PT practice, make sure you have reliable software that sends automatic reminders to patients for their next appointment; this can be via email or text message.
Also, ensure appointments are easy to book and stick to the schedule to avoid keeping patients waiting longer than expected. Long wait times can lead to significant frustrations for your patients, who may opt to look for more convenient, customer-friendly options. If there's an emergency, make an effort to inform patients about the situation immediately and provide an updated wait time.
Personalized healthcare begins with action from the physical therapist, even before the patient books an appointment. It makes a significant difference to patients. They are more likely to feel cared for if you address them by their name, understand their medical history, and recommend personalized treatment plans. This is possible with software that creates customizable physical therapy EMR templates. Moving to a system that lets you control your documentation entirely is all you need to improve the patient experience.
Furthermore, such a system will provide instant access to patient profiles, notes, and documents needed at the front desk, during treatment, and in the billing office. Besides being a convenient process, it saves time and ensures you attend to your patients within their timeline, resulting in greater patient satisfaction.
Even with excellent care and great customer experience, a complicated and inconvenient billing process can still lead to a poor review of your service. Dissatisfaction can arise from bills with errors, unexpected charges on bills, charges that arrive late, and an outdated payment process, which makes it difficult for patients to pay for their care. To improve the billing process for your practice:
Patients who find the payment process easy are more likely to pay on time and in full. Allow them to pay their bills online to make the process fast and convenient. Online payment services allow you to send bills on time and track payments more accurately.
Patients want to feel comfortable during their visit. With the help of automated systems such as patient portals, text reminders, smartphone apps, videos, voice mail messages, and emails, healthcare providers can easily access patients' information, including their medical conditions, preferences, demographics, and feedback from previous appointments.
Such access allows healthcare providers to understand what the patient needs quickly. Using this information, they can determine the most valuable therapeutic modalities and create a personalized physical therapy treatment plan for a specific patient. Personalizing the patient experience makes the patient feel engaged in their care and recovery.
By providing accessible learning resources for patient education, healthcare providers can provide better care and improve physical therapy patient experiences. Address any questions related to symptoms, treatment plans, or home exercise programs, and provide them with the resources they need for quick recovery and optimal wellness. Direct them to any resources that may be available on your website, and remember to interact with them online to build a long-term relationship and greater trust in your practice.
Tracking patient outcomes is vital to improving patient experience in physical therapy. Monitoring a patient's progress throughout treatment allows you to spot problems early and helps patients remain motivated. Physical therapists can also provide patient outcome data to primary care physicians, leading to more referrals.
The right software solution can track patient no-shows, cancellations, and billing data. It can also provide these numbers on demand without waiting or manual calculations. Patient sources are also vital to monitor, so you can better decide where to spend your marketing dollars. Physical therapy management software should also provide reports on regulatory compliance to ensure staff members complete required tasks on time.
MWTherapy can help you show referring physicians and insurance how you improve patient outcomes based on factual data. Take a look at our solutions to learn more about how they can help your practice.
Indeed, you should consider many factors to achieve an enhanced patient experience. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to improving the patient experience, implementing the right software for your practice and taking the proper steps to create a personalized experience will increase satisfaction. Identifying potential sources of negative experiences and providing technology-enabled solutions that meet the patient's demand can go a long way in improving the patient experience, which translates to higher patient retention for your practice.
MWTherapy's Physical Therapy Practice Management Software gives practices the tools they need to simplify administrative work and focus more on patient experience. To see how this technology can help enhance your day-to-day operations, request a demo today!