The Baby Boomer Fitness Revolution (and How PTs can Capitalize)

Guest post by Dan Ritchie PhD

Trust me, I know first hand that physical therapy marketing practices are having the squeeze put on them.   I’ve been working side by side with a PT/OT clinic for 6 years now.   Our blended physical therapy business model has worked well for years. Even though we opened in 2007 right before the downturn in 2008, we are still here and we continue to grow every year.  If you want to learn how I did it, in an interview with Nitin, click here to purchase the video training of ‘The new Medicare opportunity’.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself.   I run two Personal Training Studios that focus on specialized one on one personal training and small group personal training programs geared to boomers and seniors. The average age of our client is 58, much older than clients in your typical health club or personal training studio.

I have seen my partner in the PT clinic, deal with more and more cuts in reimbursement, more and more challenges in in-network insurance issues.

As a business owner that operates on a cash basis, I can’t imagine what it would be like to wake up Jan 1st and find out you are facing an 8% pay cut you can do nothing about!

In fact, my challenge is more on how much I can raise my prices.

Looking at the health care changes as an outsider, it would appear that some bureaucratic force really wants more consolidation of services, more streamlining, more collaboration and more conglomeration.   There doesn’t seem to be much care for the private practice owner trying to offer a quality service.  It’s more like “Let’s just get everything into large mass to cut overall costs across the board”.

So I see a huge opportunity for physical therapy clinics to widen their services and begin offering programs like what we’ve been doing for several years.

Charging cash for services.

Let’s face it, very few physical therapy patients finish with their therapy completely.  You typically address only one body part that is ailing them. You don’t fully address their other joint problems or discomforts. You don’t work on the 30-100 lbs of excess weight they are carrying which if may have led to their problem in the first place.   You don’t solve their nutrition, cardiovascular health risks or diabetes health risk.

You could be offering tremendous follow on services that carry-on concurrently with physical therapy or immediately after.

We transition physical therapy patients into 1-1 or small group training as soon as the physical therapist deems appropriate. There also is a very seamless transition from fitness to therapy and therapy to fitness.

I know you’ve had that patient that was referred by their physician and after evaluation, you are left with an ethical dilemma.

What can I ethically offer this person?
What they really need is some exercise and a swift kick in the butt and I am pretty sure you don’t have a coding for that.

But if you had a specialized fitness and lifestyle program that could address other health issues, you can keep them as clients.   Maybe their physician referred them simply because they really want them to start doing something, anything! The boomer and senior population is tremendously underserved by rehab professionals like physical therapists.

Take a look in your marketplace, how many facilities are truly catering to clients over 55?   Some health clubs like to think they are “senior” friendly, but what that really means is they will sign seniors up.   Their facilities are for 20-30 somethings and not appropriately set up for older clients, especially ones with orthopedic issues.

You might be thinking,  “But I run a PT clinic, how can I offer exercise sessions or training?”

Well, if you have enough room to train 2-4 people on some basic functional movement patterns, you have enough room to add a successful small group training program that can generate over $100/hr.

You already have the customers to fill it, you won’t have to market or advertise.   You simply plug in a physical therapy assistant. Or hire a quality personal trainer and start offering some small group training programs.   Examples of programs could be:

  • enhance your golf swing and reduce your back pain
  • functional balance exercises to ensure you never fall again
  • functional strength movements so you can stay strong and independent

I am not talking about those “fixed income” seniors that won’t pay for any out of pocket services.   But rather, those boomers and seniors that are holding 70% of this country’s wealth!

That is right!  Baby Boomers hold approximately 70% of all the wealth in US, so they can afford to pay for training programs out of pocket.

If you are running a reputable physical therapy clinic, certainly at least 1/3 of your patients would trust your recommendation to a follow on training program.

It would not be unrealistic at all for you to keep your patients for 3-6 months of extended training after physical therapy.   And some you may keep for years.   We have had many clients for over 4 years.   Honestly, at age 65, what is your alternative….stop training and see the ramifications of that?

I believe with the targeted cuts on physical therapy, many private practices will be faced with a few options:

  • Just grin and bear it and live with much tighter profit margins
  • Be bought out, consolidate with a larger hospital program
  • Close your doors and go to work for a larger hospital program because the profit margins simply don’t make it worth it to own your own place anymore
  • Become innovative and look for new cash based programs to offer to grow your overall revenue streams in numerous ways, keeping existing patients and even bringing in new clients.

I am always eager to share everything I know about the physical therapy and integrated fitness center business model.   I am happy to talk with Nitin and hopefully offer some tangible solutions you can put in place in less than 60 days to add some revenue. We hope to see you on the 60 minute video training of ‘The New Medicare opportunity’.

Click here to purchase the video training for ‘The new Medicare opportunity’.

Dan Ritchie, PhD, CSCS
Owner, Trainer
Miracles Fitness

Also, Join us for the #1 Rated Physical Therapy Business Conference in the Country.

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