The struggle to attract patients and keep them engaged in care can feel pretty lonely and frustrating for PT owners.
We know our value: the sooner patients get in to physical therapy, the better their outcomes and the lower their health care costs. (There’s a whole body of scientific research that demonstrates exactly that.)
That message isn’t getting heard. Of the tens of millions of people in the U.S. who need physical therapy right now, more than 90 percent of them won’t ever seek it out. And among those who do, more than two-thirds of those patients will drop out of care prematurely.
It’s clear that PT owners can’t only rely on their individual marketing/outreach efforts to bring patients into care and keep them coming back. Yes, word of mouth referrals, and your relationships with active and past patients are of huge importance. But your other relationships, with physicians and other referral partners, matter a whole lot, too.
When you cultivate the right kind of relationships, these partners can deliver and reinforce key messages about the importance of physical therapy and the value of your practice.
Swapping out a go-it-alone approach for a more expansive and inclusive approach to engagement is how you’ll make a bigger impact in addressing the uncertainty that keeps people from seeking the physical therapy they need. A clear and consistent message about your practice, coming from different corners of your patients’ lives—including other trusted and valued practitioners—will have a powerful influence over their choices and their commitment.
3 ways to go bigger on patient engagement (and one big piece of advice):
Make referring physicians your allies
Relationships with physicians, we all know, can be pretty fraught for PT owners. Historically, practice owners have put a lot of time, effort, money—and stress—into cultivating those relationships, with often limited and inconsistent returns. Times are changing, and how PTs approach developing relationships is changing too. That’s not so much a problem as it is a great opportunity to transform how you think about and manage these relationships going forward.
How do you start to make physicians your allies, and advocates for your services? Think in terms of what they need from you. Show them the value of your practice to their patients—in in specific, objective terms. The metrics you track for clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction, and cost effectiveness are the building blocks of the relationship between you and your referring physicians—and the message they will be spreading about your practice to their patients.
Look past the traditional medical community for partners
PTs are part of a broad community of health care. But too often we operate like we’re in this alone, or in a narrow zone with physicians only. Patients today are looking beyond their primary physicians for support and guidance with their health care. That means you need to look beyond these traditional partners, too. Nutritionists, psychologists, personal trainers, naturopaths, coaches: referrals and support for your work can come from all these sources. Highlight the importance of referring out.
Speak directly to your ideal patient
Invite the public to you and go where your patients are. That’s live events, but it’s also blogging, podcasting, webinars, a vibrant and consistent presence on social media. It’s through all these platforms that you can share your knowledge, demonstrate your value, and—most essentially—begin to establish a human, emotional connection with prospective patients. It’s that connection that defines the experience your patients have in your care. It’s what will see them through treatment plans and make them advocates and ambassadors for your practice down the road.
The big step you want to take before you start talking to your community? Know who your ideal patient is. Build your outreach strategy—and your message—to reach that group of people.
Identifying your ideal patient is one of the fundamental tactics that allows you to finally build a committed patient base—patients who complete their care plans and help you find other people who need your help. The search for your ideal patient doesn’t have to be complicated. I break it down for you in my FREE guide, 3 Simple Things That Will Get You More Patients and Make You More Money Right Now.
Here’s the piece of advice: Every time you’re engaging with potential patients and potential allies or partners, be prepared to connect your story to their desires. Patients, partners, prospects—they all need to hear who you are and how you can help them meet their needs.