Guide to Retaining Patients for PTs

Learn how to increase patient retention at your physical therapy practice. Find tips for how to improve client retention and recruitment.

Patient retention is an essential part of a physical therapy clinic's growth and financial success. The provision of quality physical therapy care is the number one driver in patient retention. However, there are other patient retention strategies that can contribute to increased retention rates -- increasing patient satisfaction, improving patient engagement, and staying on top of best practices, can all help with patient retention. 

Below, we have come up with a guide to retaining physical therapy patients. This guide highlights the benefits of patient retention and different strategies that physical therapists can use to improve their patient recruitment and retention, which results in increased growth and success of your physical therapy practice.

Physical Therapists Role in Increasing Patient Retention

Many patients understand the importance of completing all of their physical therapy treatment sessions, but not all of them always attend. One survey found that patient retention was as low as 7% in practices with more than one physical therapist. That statistic is astounding and can have negative repercussions on the health of a patient and financial stability of the practice. Prioritizing how to improve upon this issue can have a positive impact on the overall health of the patients and also the retention rate and success of the business. Learning ways to increase patient participation in treatment sessions is the first step in increasing patient retention rates. 

Top Patient Retention Strategies

Retaining patients starts with quality care from their physical therapist. Top quality care is made up of multiple different aspects that together makes the ultimate patient experience. Below is a list of ways we think will add value to your quality of care and help you retain patients.

1. Make a Good First Impression

The phrase “Making a Good First Impression” is not new, but it certainly goes a long way when meeting patients for the first time. All staff should be trained and abide by the coral values of the practice that they work for.  Showing compassion, being altruistic and accountable are just a few of the APTA’s core values for physical therapists that should always be displayed.  Being confident in your skill set, explaining to patients information about what you offer and addressing any questions or concerns that they may have is important in instilling trust. 

Physical therapists should put an emphasis on what the purpose of the patient's physical therapy journey is. It needs to be made clear to them what you/they are going to do in order to achieve the patients goals. Providing the patient with an outline of the exercises, goals and timeframes is a great way to keep them informed and accountable. Explaining to patients the necessity of coming to their treatment sessions and engaging with their home exercise program will help them with their overall progression. Letting the patient know why you feel the timeframe is realistic and instilling confidence in them, in that you believe they can achieve these goals can help improve the self-confidence of the patient. Listening to what patients have to say and including them in creating functional goals that can be accomplished can lead to increased patient engagement and motivation.  

2. Stay Informed and Updated On Best Practice Care 

It is imperative that physical therapists stay up to date with the latest techniques and research in order to provide patients with the top quality of care. Having physical therapists shift to using evidence based practice alongside their knowledge from experience will allow them to provide their patients with top quality care. Requirements for continuing education differ among states, for example in New York State physical therapists are required to complete 36 hours every 3 year registration period (with the exception of newly licensed therapists who are exempt from this requirement during their first 3 year registration period).

It is important that physical therapists attend these continuing education courses not only because they are a requirement for licensure but also because it can expand the services that their clinic offers. Expanding on your services may spark interest in patients and increase their likelihood of them wanting to engage in the new services which can help increase client retention rates. 

Changes to technology are also constantly occurring. Staying up to date with the EMR systems, practice management and telehealth software, website designs and social media outlets can add as another tool for organization and marketing.  Having systems that send appointment reminders via text or email can be a great source for communication between physical therapists and their patients. Scheduling recurring appointments, and having the ability to book patients a month out will keep patients accountable and motivated in coming back. 

3. Patient Engagement Can Increase Patient Retention 

Continuous engagement with patients can assist them with staying accountable and motivated during their physical therapy experience. Encouraging patients to take ownership of their rehabilitation journey is important for overall success.

Patient engagement is a general term used to describe patients actively participating in their health and wellness. In place of providing one-directional healthcare recommendations, implementing a patient engagement strategy allows healthcare professionals to receive input (and information) from patients and to work collaboratively to create a wellness plan. In a two-way flow of information, healthcare providers can provide personalized care, and patients are more likely to adhere to these recommendations. 

In a  modern way, patient engagement means the ability to deliver care when patients most need it: in real-time. With advances in technology and telehealth, healthcare providers can work with patients in real-time by providing video calls and message support, monitoring patient progress through wearable fitness trackers, and delivering patient education electronically. Offering Telehealth can not only serve as an added benefit for your patients health but also improve communication between provider and patient. By increasing ways to communicate, physical therapists can remind their patients of the importance of attending treatment sessions and help keep them accountable, leading to increased retention rates.

4. Provide Additional Patient Programs 

Providing home exercise programs for your patients when appropriate, as an additional resource for rehabilitation is a part of standard practice for most physical therapists. Working with patients to create home exercise programs and educating them on the important part that they play in a person's rehabilitation journey is essential in transitioning them to performing them at home. That being said, once a person has been discharged from physical therapy services they may lose motivation to continue to perform their home exercise program or even maintain physical activity levels. 

Physical therapy clinics may consider offering free or paid group therapy sessions that could be in-person or virtual. Creating exercise programs for people with similar diagnoses could be an effective way to keep people physically active even after they have been discharged from your services. Having in-person group sessions or even virtual events that include exercise programs or even patient education on specific health related topics will keep people engaged with your services. Programs as such could be held for current patients or past patients and can be an added financial resource for your practice. 

5. Utilize Patient Satisfaction Forms

Allowing patients to provide feedback on your services and clinic is an effective way to improve your clinic as a whole. Happy patients are the patients who will continue to utilize your services and refer your clinic to family and friends. That being said, for people who may have left negative feedback on a form it is important that it is addressed so that changes can be made in the future. 

Having an optional section for people to put their contact information is a great way to reconnect with patients. Physical therapists should consider reconnecting with patients who were willing to include their contact information and had positive feedback for patient testimonials. If patients read or hear about other people's success stories it may encourage them to continue participating in physical therapy. 

All feedback is necessary for improvements and growth. Improving upon negative feedback by incorporating them into weekly/monthly/annual individual staff member or clinic goals is a great way to ensure that change is made. Using KPI’s and telemanagement systems to track these improvements is another marketing resource that can be used later to promote your business. Patients want to see that clinics take their feedback seriously and that changes are made. Accepting patient feedback and improving your clinic to address needs and concerns is a great way to make your practice standout and keep your patients coming. 

Having a high patient retention rate is a testament to the quality of service that your clinic provides. Increasing patient retention is something that everyone should strive for. In order to do so, it takes commitment to improving everyday operations emphasizing improvement of the patient experience. Using the tips from this guide will help you with improved patient engagement and building trustworthy relationships that will hopefully lead to patients continuing to come to your physical therapy practice. 

Healthie for Physical Therapists 

Healthie offers a cloud-based EHR and telehealth platform that is quick to implement while supporting compliance with HIPAA regulations — while being customizable to meet your business needs. In addition, the Healthie platform integrates with insurance billing tools, so that you can quickly create Superbills and CMS 1500 claims, send invoices, and collect payments for out-of-pocket services. 

Here’s what you gain when working with your physical therapy or occupational therapy clients via Healthie: 

  • Insurance Billing
  • Favorite ICD-10 & CPT Codes
  • Anatomical Charting
  • Patient Engagement
  • Payment Processing 
  • And much more

We have seen physical therapists and occupational therapists find success using Healthie within their practices. Whether you’re a solo practitioner or part of a multi-provider group or organization, our flexible membership plans adapt to meet your business needs. Let us help you launch your practice.

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Focus on clinic growth and patient care with Healthie.

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