Physical therapy needs to face its fear of failure now

Physical therapy needs to face its fear of failure now

Published on Author Sean HageyLeave a comment

I have a very positive attitude toward physical therapy.

The founder of, I also am an active leader in the Home Health section of the APTA. Finally, I spend half my workweek consulting with the folks here at In Hand Health.

But lately amid all my PT hustling, I wonder if I am more enamored with the potential of the physical therapy profession than the reality that is unfolding before us all.

The physical therapy profession has some soul searching to do

The good: All the energy that came from the APTA Combined Sections Meeting in New Orleans. I renewed a lot of friendships, learned a lot of new things, and was thoroughly convinced that, yeah, PT has problems but we can overcome them.

The bad: All the sniping on social media (a plea for calm please) and the seeming lack of progress on so many issues discussed at the convention. Insurance issues, healthcare laws, direct access, too-busy-to-innovate attitudes, second-guessing each other…so many things that interfere with delivering the best physical therapy possible to patients.

My conclusion: Physical therapy is at a crossroads. We’re stuck in a mentality that dates back several decades, even to the founding of the profession.

It’s raining on the physical therapy parade

Seth Godin is fond of saying that the key phrase in marketing is finding a solution for this statement, “People like us do things like this.” So, what exactly do “people like us” do? Here’s my list of behaviors and traits that I’ve noticed in the physical therapy community:

Characteristics in physical therapy: Try to impress each other. Complain. Hope things will change. Are reactive. Fight with each other. Take the wait and see approach. Avoid change. Are passive. Hope people come to see us.


An ounce of physical therapy positivity = A pound of cure

What I’d like to see, and have been trying to do for the last two years, is to flip the script. How about these traits and behaviors instead:


Characteristics for pro-active physical therapy: Be assertive. Lead by example. Be proactive. Seek and embrace change. Anticipate and invent. Fight for each other. Be humble but confident. Go out and meet people where they are.

We’re fearful of what other professions will think of us if we promote ourselves. At the same time, some of these professions are seeking to drastically limit what we do. Look no further than the efforts by physician groups to fight against direct access.

It’s not an either-or kind of system. We can be confident and humble. We can unite and seek to improve ourselves.

In the face of change, we can afford to double and triple down on methods that are failing and aren’t sustainable.

See the rise in high volume clinics for a perfect example. This is done to increase revenue at decreased cost. This now leads to a decrease in payment/reimbursement, which leads to more high volume, and the cycle keeps going.

Do not fear: Adopt physical therapy technology

I see this resistance to change with technology. Since I’m blogging for a company that has a telehealth solution, let’s use that example. I’ve talked to dozens of therapists about telehealth. All are curious about it. It excites some. But almost no one is using it.

Why? Here’s what people have told me:


Excuses for not using the latest physical therapy technology: Insurance doesn’t pay for it. I would have to learn new software. I don’t have the time. I’ll wait until more people are using it.

It’s clear that fear is a roadblock for some. But that fear is dangerously short-sighted. It causes us to do things that may benefit us at this moment but only hurt us in the long run.

Instead of racing to the bottom of insane production at the lowest cost possible, how about we go the opposite route? What if we were proactive about finding new ways to reach more people, provide more value, and improve the experience?

Because we’re so risk-averse, we don’t realize that doing the “safe thing” is actually the most dangerous.

I’ve given away tons and tons of free marketing advice. Guess how many have actually followed through on it? You can count it on one hand. What stops so many people?

All of the above.

We’re not doomed if we try and fail. We’re doomed if we don’t try at all.

Are you interested in a telehealth solution for your practice? Request an invitation to try In Hand Health. Upon receipt of your request, we will respond with the next steps for you to access and test the solution in your clinic.

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