It was crowded but I managed to find a seat at the keynote presentation of a physical therapy conference I was attending recently. I was still getting settled, scanning the conference agenda for the day in one hand and balancing a hot coffee in the other when the speaker’s words snapped me to attention.
“There has been more change in the last 5 years in physical therapy than in the previous 40 years combined.”
The next slide behind the speaker had a dizzying set of numbers, all showing the drop in reimbursements, the decline in patient retention, and other not-so-good factors for PTs. He then continued:
“We have entered a new era of physical therapy.”
While I had owned and operated a successful PT clinic (Blue Ridge Physical Therapy in Independence, MO) for years, it was in that moment that what I had sensed before about the PT profession was made very real. I also knew it was time to re-evaluate my methods as a physical therapy clinic owner.
How I Approached This Exercise
I should preface that my thoughts when entering this evaluation were not about overhauling everything we were doing. In fact, we had worked hard to put many productive systems in place. We had loyal patients and were generating successful outcomes. I sure didn’t want to upset that momentum!
Rather, I took a look at my own habits as the clinic owner and went on a mission to find ways I could grow the practice and position it for the challenges in the healthcare landscape without disrupting the favorable rhythms we had.
During the course of this self evaluation, here are a few things I have incorporated into my own personal workflow that have generated positive results. Maybe they can help you too.
In the Area of Clinical Skills…
Get Control of Your Inbox: The first thing I realized is my email was out of control. Along with text messaging, it was the primary method for communication between my staff and me so I had to use it. However, I had over time let my email address slip onto too many lists and some of my friends had my business email as their primary contact point also.
While perhaps spending only 30-45 minutes a day making sense of my Inbox, I realized how much that time added up during the course of a week, even worse a month.
Fed up with the situation, I decided to spend the better part of a morning unsubscribing from retailers and other lists I had no use for any longer and I also re-directed many of my friends to my personal account. That took care of the clutter. However, I didn’t stop there and began to add my email to selected lists that would directly help my clinical skills.
For example, I recently subscribed to the Total Motion Release email list. Through that connection, I have been able to learn several new treatments and timely business suggestions through webinars that were immediately applicable to our clinic. There are dozens of resources just like his that can transform your inbox from a timewaster into a valuable resource.
One more suggestion: Learn how to apply Filters to incoming mail and group similar topics and senders into their own folders. With these filters in place, I have saved a lot of time locating specific emails, especially when the search feature can’t locate what you’re after.
Local Seminars: I live in the Kansas City area and am fortunate to have access to one day and half day seminars from the local APTA sections, colleges, and professionals. I don’t always have the time to take a week or half a week to attend a larger conference but I have found these smaller settings to be valuable for networking as well as learning new clinical practices. (Pro Tip: I suggest you do a little homework into the host of any seminar to make sure it is from a reputable source of course.)
APTA.org and PTNow: If your APTA membership has lapsed, I suggest you renew it for a number of reasons with one of the main ones being it gives you access to PTNow. This site provides several searchable resources and tools to increase your PT knowledge.
In the Area of Business Development…
Civic Clubs and Chambers of Commerce: Our practice is more than 30 years old now and a large part of that longevity is from word-of-mouth referrals. To that end, turn to your local civic clubs (Rotary, AMBUCS, etc.) and Chamber of Commerce to help establish your clinic as a valuable business within your community. Aside from the networking you can accomplish at the meetings, you might even be able to make a presentation as most of these groups are typically looking for speakers. Volunteer!
Community Involvement: Search your local churches or charities for opportunities for your clinic to provide a service such as sorting clothes at a shelter or serving meals at a shelter. The opportunities are numerous so find an activity that can involve your whole team. The actions obviously contribute to the greater good of your community but can also have secondary positive effects in terms of team building and exposing your clinic name and employees to a part of the city that might not have heard about your business.
Accountants and Attorneys: Early in my clinic ownership, I tried to manage all aspects of the business including some that I now know I shouldn’t have tried to take on myself. While I believe it is important to have billing functions in house (perhaps a topic for another blog entry), one of the best things I did was to outsource the more complex accounting procedures such as business state and federal taxes to a CPA. Similarly, I hired a local attorney to provide advice and draft any documents of a legal nature. I am way ahead paying these people than spending my own time on these matters.
Visit Doctors With Your Patients: Not that these activities don’t have their place, but I’ve never been a big fan of formal meetings/open houses or catering in lunches to doctors’ offices to earn referrals. Instead, we have had more success getting our clinic name in doctors’ minds by having me or one of our staff PTs attend doctor appointments with our patients. Certainly there is a time constraint on doing this too often but we have found it to be a smart investment in the patient as well as with the attending doctor. Try it out!
Improve Your Image and Get Social: If your website was built in the 90s and you don’t have at least a Facebook page for your clinic, it’s past time to address that situation in the best way you can. If you don’t have a marketing budget (we do very little direct marketing ourselves), at least set aside some funds to have your digital presence established by a freelancer or outside source if no one on your existing staff has the skills or time.
In the Area of Industry Knowledge and Participation…
CSMs or Other Regional Conferences: It takes some planning and budgeting but there really is no substitute for attending a Combined Section Meeting or state PT association conferences. Attending sessions and networking is usually worth the price of admission. Some years it is easier to attend than others but I always try to make sure at least one of our PTs makes it to the CSM with the understanding whoever goes is responsible for bringing back knowledge to everyone else and not just their expense report.
Legislative Updates: It might not be the reason you got into PT, but I would encourage you to fight any level of “what will happen will happen” attitude toward the healthcare landscape. There is so much legislation being discussed and debated at the state and national levels that affect PT right now that you owe it to your employees to be in the know as much as possible.
Direct access, POPTS, HOPTS, and insurance reimbursements are dictating the future of our profession. Get in the know by frequenting www.apta.org and your state’s online legislative resources so you can properly position your business instead of being in a reactive mode. Play offense, not defense.
In the Area of Personal Management…
Set and Protect Your Schedule: While I enjoy being a PT clinic owner, I never want to lose contact with treating patients.
However, I found it difficult to wear both of those hats well without being deliberate about my schedule. So for the past few years, I have rigidly kept Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays as my “See Patients” days while Tuesdays and Thursdays are “Clinic Business” days.
Things happen, of course, that might adjust this schedule from time to time. However, setting this schedule for myself as well as with my staff has helped me focus on the tasks at hand and be more productive.
It’s helped me grow my clinic while also making me available to pursue related interests such as speaking at conferences, teaching at a local university (Rockhurst University), and contributing as an advisor to the software development team at In Hand Health.
Hopefully some of these things will help you with your clinic. What are some changes or new programs you have implemented at your clinic that have been successful? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.