How to Attract and Retain Clients: An Interview with Renowned Physical Therapist Karen Litzy, PT, DPT
Karen Litzy, PT, DPT runs a successful, concierge style PT practice in New York City where clients have the luxury of one-on-one hour-long sessions in the comfort of their home or office. Karen’s promise to her clients is to treat them to the best of her abilities with care, empathy, and professionalism to ensure a meaningful therapeutic relationship. We sat down with Karen to learn more about how she attains and retains clients in her practice.
Q. In your experience, what’s the number one thing that helps patients successfully complete their rehabilitation?
Karen Litzy: One thing I find that helps patients finish their care is having an excellent start to their care. This means conducting a thorough initial evaluation that includes:
- Using motivational interviewing techniques to create a space for the patient to both tell their story and think critically about their problem.
- Clearly outlining the plan of care for the patient so they understand what to expect.
- Creating mutually agreed upon goals that are objective, fit the patient’s lifestyle, and have meaning for that patient.
This evaluation helps develop a more meaningful therapeutic relationship with the patient and shows them you care. As a result, they are more likely to stick with you throughout the rehab process and meet their goals. This also establishes realistic expectations for that patient. If the patient knows what to expect from their care, how their progression may look, what their responsibility is in their recovery, and what the therapists’ responsibility is in their recovery, they are more likely to agree to and comply with the full plan of care.
Q. What information do you recommend sharing with patients at each stage in their visit process?
Karen Litzy: I think it’s important to acknowledge what they’re doing well and show their progress from previous visits. This progress can take many forms:
- It can be an objective measurement like range of motion, improved gait pattern, improved endurance, etc.
- It can be completing a task at home or work that they couldn’t do before.
- It can be hitting a sports performance goal.
- It can be a decrease in pain that allows them to play with their children, go out to dinner with friends, etc.
Bottom line: you should acknowledge and celebrate anything that the patient feels is meaningful to their recovery or life. As physical therapists, we need to focus on the positive aspects of the patient’s ability vs. the aspects they are lacking.
Q. How do you respond to patients who aren’t ready to be discharged but think they no longer need therapy services because they are feeling better?
Karen Litzy: I try to bring the focus back to their goals. That is, the goals we created together at the initial evaluation, or mid-way through their care. It’s okay to add new goals as you progress through care because sometimes priorities and goals can change. Have they reached all of the goals they set for themselves throughout the plan of care? These goals were important enough for the patient to write out, so the patient should reach these goals before discharge. I recommend highlighting the patient’s goals and having meaningful conversations about their goals. I may say something like: “Even though you’re feeling better (which is awesome), that’s only one part of the plan of care. I want you to meet your goals and feel confident in your body. So I would recommend a few more sessions to achieve your remaining goals.”
Normally, I would schedule those last few sessions several weeks apart to act as a “check-in” and then modify their exercise or self-care program as needed.
Q. What are your strategies for engaging potential patients? How can people learn about your practice and services before they become a registered patient? How do you attract these patients and keep them engaged?
Karen Litzy: I get the majority of my patients through word-of-mouth recommendations from various relationships I’ve cultivated over the years. The number one piece of advice I have for business owners is that it’s important to create meaningful relationships with various stakeholders in your community. These stakeholders can include (but are not limited to):
- Local yoga/pilates instructors
- Personal trainers
- Gym owners
- Nursing agencies
- Chambers of commerce
- Other physical therapists
If you can create genuine relationships with these people in your community, they are much more likely to refer you when someone they know is in need of physical therapy. People are more likely to go to a provider (of any type) if someone they know and trust refers them. This is a great way for potential patients to learn about you and your practice before they even step foot in your clinic.
To complement this you need to have a great website that reflects who you are and the quality service you provide. Even when a patient is referred to you by a trusted source, you still need to have a great website that highlights your strengths as a clinician, and more importantly, who you are as a person. For example, on my website, I have a section that asks the question “Who am I, and how can I help?” When a potential patient contacts me (whether referred by someone or just stumbling onto my website), most visitors will say that after reading this part of the website, they know they want to work with me. In this section, I share a bit of my personal story and why I am so passionate about helping others. Ultimately, you want a potential patient to be able to relate to you and trust you. This is what your website should convey.
When a potential patient contacts me, I will always try to call them on the phone to talk about why they feel they need physical therapy. I will allot as much as an hour for this call. I want to make sure we are a good fit and that I can help them. After our conversation, if I feel like I am not the best person to guide them through their recovery, I’ll do everything I can to connect them to the right person. If we are a fit, I’ll book the appointment right then and there. If they need some time to think things over, I’ll usually follow up with them via email in a few days and then in a week or two to see if there is anything else I can do for them.
Q. What are your strategies for engaging patients who are no longer receiving active care? That is, are there ways people can continue to benefit from education/information about their conditions? How do you track these patients and keep them engaged?
Karen Litzy: If your patients agree to sign up for your mailing list, this is a great way for you to stay in touch with them and send them information they may enjoy. Any email management system can track the engagement and click rates of your emails, so you can see if your former patients are reading your emails. If they are not engaging, you can always send them an individual email to check in and see what kind of information they would like to see more of.
You can also send an actual card in the mail for birthdays or holidays to let them know you care. I will also send a card when they complete their plan of care — kind of like a thank-you note. And if a former patient refers a new patient to me, I will also send a thank-you note.
There are plenty of ways to stay in touch after the patient ends their plan of care with you. What’s most important is that you do what feels comfortable for you, what’s comfortable for your patients, and what fits with your care philosophy.
About Karen Litzy, PT, DPT:
Karen Litzy, PT, DPT is a proud member of the American Physical Therapy Association, the Orthopedic Section of the APTA, the Section on Women’s health, the Home Health Section and the Private Practice Section of the APTA. She is also an official spokesperson for the APTA as a member of their media corps. She also hosts the podcast, Healthy, Wealthy, and Smart, a podcast that provides up to date clinical information combined with business strategies from the best and brightest thought leaders in physical therapy, wellness and entrepreneurship. Karen graduated from Misericordia University with her master’s degree in Physical Therapy in 1997 and then graduated from the same university in 2014 with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. Read more about Karen at https://karenlitzy.com/