Evolution and unpredictability is an important component of success in a private practice. The mindset of a successful private practitioner is one that embraces constant change and chaos. Most managers try and maintain a sense of stability and predictability (stagnation?).
This is the best way for a practice to fold.
The successful practice grows fast, and is characterized by periods of unpredictability and EXPLOSIVENESS.
In order to succeed in a private practice, it is important to challenge the way traditional business is done and develop a ‘foundational fan base’. Businesses of the future will rely on social components that withstand harsh economic climates, on ‘tribes’ of customers who will swear by the clinic and its therapists, refer more customers and flock to work with a practice.
In the cases of physical therapy, it begins with patient education and is associated with direct access. I am not talking about awareness of a patient’s ailment, but their knowledge and awareness about the profession of physical therapy.
Patients are the single biggest sources of referrals for the private practice of the 21st century and it is our responsibility as therapists to educate them. During each visit, you may take this opportunity to try marketing physical therapy. Tell patients about the scope and benefit of physical therapy and educate them about the results they can expect. Don’t thrust the patient into a quagmire of modalities and therapy, but help them understand what is being done, why it is being done and what to expect. Use your skills to get the patients the right results and condition the patients to rely on and respect the physical therapy profession. This will help you build a large base of satisfied patients, instead of the transient patient who will forget your name within a few weeks of discharge.
Start by improving the patient’s understanding of what physical therapy can do for you, and in the process, get recognized as an opinion leader in your community. As a manager, you should be a ‘supportive salesman’ to the patient, enable them to understand the benefits of therapy, and become an indispensable part of their lives.
By educating your patients, physicians and local media to recognize your clinic as a local authority in your field/specialization of therapy, your clinic will instantly set itself apart from competitors. More patients will come directly to you.
Awareness is critical and you are the engine to magnify patient awareness. Everything you do has a repercussion. The road you chose for your patients, and your clinics is in your hands.
The psychology of a new patient is intriguing. Why does a patient complain about a $20 co-pay yet the same patient spends upwards of $60 to $80 on dinner? What motivates a physician to bypass you as a therapist and seek medication or even surgery?
Does it seem like patients are not properly educated about the value of physical therapy?
Money is rarely a concern. That’s the harsh reality. If a patient sees value, they will pay. We need to make them see the value in us, our skills and the benefits that physical therapy has to offer. When we demonstrate value, they will empty their pockets to pay higher deductibles, and out-of-network fees.
When will they not pay? When there is a lack of awareness about the benefits of physical therapy. In such cases, the patients do not know what physical therapy is and what it does.
As a private practice owner, you must define physical therapy and, more importantly, define your own brand of physical therapy in order to stand out as a well-known physical therapist. You must create an identity for yourself in order to succeed as a physical therapy business owner.
It is about diversification or nullification.
Don’t get bogged down by offering just general physical therapy services. Your clinic must offer a broad range of services and 2-3 specific programs. Examples of these programs can include fall prevention for seniors, pre- and post-pregnancy physical therapy, injury prevention for athletes, fitness and lifestyle management programs, etc.
Your goal should be to dominate physical therapy services for your zip code in your community. Make sure your business is listed in the yellow pages. Register your business with the local business center in Google by visiting http://www.google.com/local/add so that your clinic starts to show in the local listings.
Start talking to local businesses in the field of health, wellness and physical therapy. Talk to other physical therapists with non-competing programs, and conduct seminars with them / write articles to market your physical therapy clinic on line / start a blog.
Hire an experienced web developer to build or reorganize your website, and capture your visitor’s name, email address and phone number when they visit your website. The web is growing everyday, and provides tools to evaluate your visitors and change website content in the blink of an eye, to provide relevant information to your target market. For example, a free tool like feedjit can tell you, live, which city and state your visitor came from and how they found you. This information is updated every 3 seconds.
Cold calling physicians, sending direct mail to doctors and patients are strategies that have been used with great success. However, the world is changing at lightening speed and we must learn to keep up or be left behind. Big companies and corporations can afford to spend thousands of dollars on advertising and marketing personnel, but the small business owner does not have that kind of a budget. The small business owner must find simple, automated ways to communicate with patients, gather feedback and execute new, cash based niche programs independent of insurance reimbursements.
This is the physical therapy practice of the 21st century. It’s not conventional, but is full of possibilities. After all, life is most fun when its (slightly) unpredictable.