Many physical therapists choose to open a private practice so they have the opportunity to treat patients how they see fit and cultivate an environment that encourages both staff and patients to thrive. The irony of physical therapy private practice is no matter how amazing your therapists are, the outcomes patients receive, or how well-run your business is, decreasing reimbursements and heavy regulations make operating a private practice extremely challenging. While one cannot control the state of healthcare regulation, there are many aspects of a private practice one can control. We’ve rounded up some of the best practices, tools, and tips to really make your private PT practice soar!
Keep Staff Happy
Turnover in the PT industry is huge. Plus, it is far more stressful and expensive to hire someone new than put in the effort on the front end to retain staff. In fact, research shows that the average cost to replace an employee is 33% of their annual salary. That means if you have a therapist who leaves the practice and earns the national median salary of $91,010 per year, it is costing your business $30,033! Not only does retaining staff work in the favor of the business, it generally creates a more trusting work environment where people perform better. Here are some ways to ensure you are keeping staff happy:
- Create a positive company culture. Particularly since the pandemic, employees want to work in a place they feel valued. Studies have consistently shown that emotional, relational, and purposeful needs are just as, if not more, important than the paycheck. This all starts with culture, and culture starts at the top. As a leader, it is vital that you encourage open and honest communication. Hold regular check-ins with staff, and discuss their personal goals as well as their professional goals. Offer constructive feedback along with positive praise of what they are doing well. Show them you value their hard work by occasionally treating them to morning coffee and bagels or a Friday happy hour. And don’t forget to bring some fun into your practice! Host team challenges (such as a water or steps challenge), encourage staff to dress up on holidays, and create opportunities for social interaction.
- Lead by example. If you expect your staff to complete high quality work, you have to be willing to step up your game and also produce. Demonstrate how work and stress should be handled on a day-to-day basis. Define and live your company values in how you treat patients and interact with staff. And don’t forget, leading by example also applies to work-life balance. If you are at the clinic every night until 8pm finishing up documentation, your staff will most likely feel they are also obligated to stay. This often leads to burnout and resentment, which you definitely do not want your employees to feel!
- Commit to individual growth. No matter what position a staff member holds in the practice, their personal/professional growth matters to them and it should also matter to you. When staff feel their talents are being utilized fully and they feel valued, they are happier and their performance skyrockets. Take time to coach your staff and invest in them through Con-ed courses. This will pay off in spades not only in their attitudes, but also in their performance.
Master Your Marketing
Whether we like it or not, we live in a fast-paced world where everything we desire is literally within fingertips reach of our smart phone. As a business owner, you have to keep up, or you risk being swallowed by your competition, even if you provide a better service. Now more than ever, marketing is absolutely critical to help grow and sustain your business (yes, even in the PT world). Present and future clients expect to find you online in some fashion, and not having a digital presence can signal to a consumer that your business is, well, beat. Equally important, potential new employees will look at a clinic’s website and social presence to get a feel for the company and you want to impress these folks to entice top talent.
Marketing does not have to be complicated. Below, we will break down the essentials, as well as some tools to help you easily master your marketing.
- Claim your Google Business Profile. This is one of the easiest and highest ROI actions you should take right now if you haven't done so already. This ensures that if anyone in your area googles your business or even keywords related to your business, your profile will appear on the right side of the search page. To do this, simply go to google.com/business and select ‘Manage Now’. From there, you will be prompted to create a profile and you can fill out all the information on your business that is helpful for clients to know. Your Google Business profile is also a place to collect reviews. After an encounter, send an automated email to clients asking them to leave a Google review with a link to your business profile. Alternatively, you could print an eye-catching flier for your clinic with a QR code that links directly to your business profile review page. Your reviews will show up under your Google Business profile for all the world to see!
- Define your niche. Defining and understanding your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is an absolute must to master your marketing. What makes your practice special? What makes your services stand out from the competition? Who exactly do you serve? What do your clients care about? Having clear, thorough answers to these questions will help steer your messaging and should be at the heart of all your marketing efforts.
- Make sure your website is up-to-date. Brownie points if it looks modern, clean, and inviting. First impressions are everything! Most likely, your website will be the first place a potential client will go to check out your business. Having up-to-date information (such as address, phone number, insurances accepted, staff members, etc.) is vital to attract and retain patients. Test your website yourself from the eyes of a user. If you don’t absolutely love the experience, it’s time for a refresh. You can certainly pay a professional to help you update your website (it will generally cost a few thousand dollars, depending on how much updating is needed). However, there are so many amazing website building tools available now that anyone can use (such as Wix or Squarespace), regardless of experience. Building a website on a DIY site can be really fun and the benefit is you have the control to update it anytime you need. Additionally, having a blog on your website can go a long way to demonstrate to potential clients your expertise and it can help drive traffic to your website.
- Expand your referral network. Your first focus surrounding referral efforts should be geared toward current and past patients. Have your team follow up with patients during and after an episode of care asking how their experience has been. Also have them ask if there is anyone in their life that might benefit from physical therapy. Create marketing content of value you can send to patients via email or physically hand them at the clinic around what conditions your therapists treat, results clients have experienced, or the proven benefits of therapy. This will make it easy for patients to share with others and also as a reminder to come back when the need arises. The second focus in expanding your referral network should be on building partner relationships. Physician referrals are an obvious place to start, but don’t discount other wellness related businesses, such as gyms, yoga studios, massage studios, and health shops. For all of these businesses, it pays to meet them in-person to discuss how you can help their clients (use research backed data). Bring marketing materials (such as brochures and business cards) to leave with them to make referrals easy. Offer to host some type of free class or educational session for their constituents based on your particular expertise. Follow up with them regularly and thank them for their partnership.
- Jump on the social media train. There is a significant benefit for your business to have a presence on social media, mainly that it provides a free way to engage potential clients and begin building trust with them. Social media is a fantastic medium to tell your story, share testimonials, introduce your staff, share interesting articles or your blog posts, and generally reach new folks who might be intrigued by what your practice has to offer. Another perk to social media is that it offers a huge reach for free if used wisely. It is not necessary to be active on every single platform, choose one or two where potential customers have a presence and do them well. For great suggestions on how to maximize your social media presence as a PT clinic, check out this great article.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Technology has advanced exponentially the past few years, especially when it comes to tech designed specifically for healthcare. Healthcare tech is booming, and for good reason. It can dramatically improve the workflow of your entire clinic, take over mundane tasks, and organize and analyze big data all for a fraction of the time and cost of a human. Below, we’ve listed the best ways you can use technology to boost your practice operations.
- Go completely digital. There are multiple benefits for your practice to go paperless. First, you will spend less money on paper, ink, toner, etc., which in 2022 is honestly a total waste of money and helps your bottom line. Second, it is better for the environment to be using less paper, ink, toner, etc. Social responsibility is becoming more and more of a draw for consumers and is another great marketing plug for your practice. Finally, when it comes to compliance and security, digital is the way to go. Having everything - from patient charts, business records, and financials - stored on a digital platform is far more secure (and generally more organized) than in paper form.
- Be sure you are using a good EMR. While switching EMRs can be a total pain in the rear, it may be worth considering if yours isn’t up to snuff. Today, many EMRs boost features such as online appointment booking, a patient portal with secure messaging, automated patient tools, documentation templates, and much more. Additionally, EMRs are often upgrading and adding different features and integrations, so take some time to be sure your team is utilizing all the features to get the most bang for your buck.
- Ensure therapists are documenting correctly and optimally billing and coding. Documentation is often one of the biggest stressors for a therapist and can even be a major source of burnout. It doesn’t have to be this way! Technology such as PT Practice Intel can coach your therapists on proper documentation, ultimately helping them become better, more efficient, and more compliant. Documentation is incredibly important not only for compliance, but also for proving medical necessity and reducing denials. Additionally, documentation feeds into billing and coding - the documentation must support what is being billed and vice versa. With a tool like PT Practice Intel, benchmarks can be set for billing and coding and administrators and therapists alike can easily glean insights into how to improve their billing and coding practices to increase revenue for the practice.
Time to Soar
If you are ready to take your private physical therapy practice to the next level, it is time to begin tackling keeping your staff happy, mastering your marketing, and using tech to your advantage. Of course, you do not have to take on everything on the list. Choose a few items to start that you intuitively feel would be high ROI for your business. Once you’ve conquered those, you can start to expand into other suggestions. Ultimately, you hold the power to make your private practice soar, and we feel confident these tips can help make it happen!