Patient Retention in Physical Therapy: 5 Strategies

Discover the value of patient retention in physical therapy and explore key strategies to keep your patients returning in this comprehensive overview.

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Patient Retention in Physical Therapy: 5 Strategies

Your physical therapy practice relies on having and keeping patients. When you retain patients longer, you have the chance to build relationships with lasting impacts. These connections with patients can help them stick to physical therapy and improve their outcomes.

New patients require considerable marketing efforts to acquire. However, that work does not guarantee that you will keep the new patients for the long term. Focus on patient retention strategies to build loyalty and help your practice to thrive.

What Is Patient Retention in Physical Therapy?

Patient retention in physical therapy refers to a practice's ability to keep their existing patients coming back for care over time. This can be measured by the patient retention rate, which is the number of patients that return for follow-up appointments over a given period.

Patient retention rate = (The number of patients who return for follow-up care / the total number of patients seen over a period)* 100

For example, if a practice sees 100 patients within a period, and 70 of those patients return for follow-up appointments, their retention rate is 70%.

The Importance of Patient Retention for PTs

All medical practices must strike a balance between finding new patients and keeping their existing patients. Increasing new patient numbers requires advertising your practice to potential new patients. However, after you exert that effort to get patients into your practice, you must also work to keep them.

Satisfying current patients through a positive patient experience is the key to retaining patients. Happy patients are more likely to spread positive news about your practice. Studies have shown that one satisfied patient will tell four other people about their good experience. However, one patient who feels dissatisfied and leaves will give ten people negative news about your practice. Additionally, every patient lost through bad experiences could cost you $200,000 over the lifetime of your practice.

Building connections and ensuring patient satisfaction improves their outcomes and bolsters your reputation. Making an effort to retain existing patients saves your practice money and helps your patients stay engaged with their treatment.

5 Strategies for Increasing Patient Retention in PT

Use the following strategies to increase patient retention in your practice:

1. Form Strong Patient-Therapist Relationships

A strong focus on patient relationship management will help ensure your patients continue coming to your practice for their treatments. Building a trusting relationship with your patients helps them be more interested in their treatment and keep up with their appointments.

During your initial visit with the patient, you have the chance to create an excellent first impression. Establish a clear outline for the patient's treatment process and what they should expect. Keep therapy goals simple and quantifiable. Providing patient education helps patients understand the steps they need to follow in order to see results. When your patient starts to see results, they will be motivated to continue their therapy.

Don't spend the entire time talking, though. Give the patient a chance to have input on their care or to ask any questions. As you talk to the patient, use the chance to encourage them to make decisions about their care and to become active participants.

Part of the treatment process requires connecting with the patient. Let them know that you recognize their pain and physical limits. They will more likely listen to your advice about doing exercises at home if they trust you and that you understand their condition.

Your interpersonal skills will put the patient at ease and increase their satisfaction with their patient experience. A study of dermatology patients revealed that doctors who could show empathy and offer clear explanations correlated directly to increased patient satisfaction. Doing the same in your physical therapy practice can help keep patients and keep them satisfied with each therapy session.

2. Create a Comfortable Clinic Environment

Make your physical therapy clinic a welcoming place from the moment patients walk in the door. Train the front desk staff to warmly, politely, and professionally greet everyone. Staff members should also introduce themselves directly to patients. These simple greetings and introductions enhance the friendliness of your practice.

In the waiting and treatment areas, use comfortable, relaxing furnishings, neutral colors, and simple décor. Create a sense of peace throughout your clinic by enhancing the space with soft lighting, gentle background music or nature sounds, and live plants. Ensure adequate space to ensure accessibility to all areas of your waiting room for patients who use mobility aids. Avoid deep sofas or chairs that can present problems for patients to get out of.

Cleanliness is another vital aspect of the overall comfort of your clinic. Keep your waiting area and treatment spaces sanitized and neat. Have front desk staff check on the waiting area to pick up fallen magazines or trash and ensure that furniture pieces stay in their places.

When patients enter a relaxed atmosphere, they have good first impressions, which may ensure they return for future visits.

3. Communicate and Follow up Effectively

Take the initiative to stay connected with your patients through regular communication. They should know the next steps of their treatment course and promptly receive answers to their questions.

To effectively communicate with your physical therapy patients, use the technology they prefer. Send out text messages, phone calls, or emails for appointment reminders, keep them updated on their progress, and check in on their prescribed exercise regime. If you need to change anything about their plan, please send a message to the patient and encourage them to contact you with questions.

Home exercises are essential for continuing progress in physical therapy. Connecting with patients between appointments via text messages or email can encourage them to keep up with their prescribed home exercises and keep their in-person appointments.

A review of studies from 1992 through 2017 found that contacting patients with appointment reminders positively correlated with their treatment outcomes. Don't let your patients fall behind. Keep communication open to improve adherence to treatment and retention in your practice.

4. Offer Various Services and Modalities

Ensure that your PT practice meets the greatest variety of needs by offering multiple modalities and services. With several options to help individuals control pain and do physical therapy, your practice has a greater chance of retaining more patients.

Possible modalities to consider adding to your practice to assist in patient healing and pain relief may include laser therapy, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, or dry needling. The last option may also assist in muscle relaxation.

To help patients stick with the rigors of physical therapy, provide them with several forms.

Aquatic therapy, such as water aerobics or pool-based exercises, reduces joint pressure and helps patients build flexibility and muscle tone. Patients who need to lessen the weight on their joints or spine during activity benefit most from this form of PT. Weight reduces by 90% when a patient stands in water up to their neck and 50% when wading up to the waist.

Exercise therapy uses stretching, aerobic, and strength-training activities to help patients rebuild muscle tone and physical functioning.

Manual therapy helps to ease pain and mobility. Types of manual therapy include manipulation, mobilization, and massage.

Studies of patient outcomes back up using multiple treatment methods. Combining exercise therapy with manual therapy in one study delayed the need for knee surgery and helped increase the walking distance in six minutes by an average of 170 meters. Another study showed that patients with chronic low back pain benefited more from aquatic therapy than those who only had land-based exercise therapy. When you have more options, you can help patients to see results and stay with their treatment and your practice.

5. Collect and Utilize Patient Feedback

Your patients have opinions about your practice and how you run it. Give them multiple chances to provide honest feedback about your practice. Collect written comment cards, ask patients to respond to phone surveys or leave their opinions on a voicemail, or send out electronic feedback forms.

Throughout the feedback experience, patients should feel comfortable being completely honest. Anonymous forms make it easier for some people to give more truthful answers.

Take the feedback you receive from patients very seriously. Make changes to prevent recreating a negative patient experience in the future. For praiseworthy parts of patient experiences, make sure to encourage the actions to continue.

When you adapt your practice to your patient's needs based on feedback, you encourage patients to stay and receive consistent, quality care that increases their chances of positive prognoses.

The Bottom Line: Improve Patient Retention in Physical Therapy

Patient retention reflects satisfaction with your physical therapy practice. Make sure you do as much as possible to improve your patients' experiences by following the above strategies. Effective physical therapy practice management software can help. Take a test drive with a demo of the software to get hands-on experience with this powerful tool for managing your practice. When you do, you'll see how MWTherapy can help your practice increase retention rates and improve patient satisfaction.

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