I had the pleasure of attending and exhibiting at the APTA PPS 2017 Annual Conference in Chicago Nov 1-4. It is always a well-attended show with private practice owners, clinicians, and vendors learning and sharing with one another about process, tools, and strategies to keep cost of delivery down, maximize reimbursements, marketing strategy and patient retention, and of course providing a quality patient experience.
The Exhibition Hall:
The exhibit hall was full of companies and groups all promoting products and services to generate success. As I have been attending these conferences for a while now, I noticed more “software vendors” on display. This is a good thing for me to see because it builds confidence that software adoption and use of software tools and technology are being utilized in running and managing a successful practice.
Full transparency, I am a product manager for one of those software solutions, MediLinks. We were very happy to be able to showcase our software and have meaningful discussions with folks looking for better alternatives for running their practices. It is also always nice to run into clients using our products, and to catch up with valued partners that we work with. Even though the competition is always growing, it is rewarding to see so many software providers that can offer ways to improve patient care as well as improve the practice owners’ ability to manage and market the value of rehab services they offer.
The Educational Sessions:
To that point, the educational sessions were full of topics, strategies, and different experiences that practice owners shared on both successes, and learning lessons along the way. There were many different themes, but three in particular stood out to me:
- Strategies and the impact on patient engagement
- Patient retention
- How practice owners can use data and outcomes to market what they do.
That is essentially what it is all about, right? It’s no secret that most practice owners work really hard to stay profitable and in business. To do that, it’s critical that the owner understands their referral sources (need patients to treat), that quality care is provided (need satisfied patients), and that you are staying compliant with regulations and following payment rules to maximize dwindling reimbursements (all the business end stuff).
That is a pretty well understood model by most. What I mainly latched on to though, are a lot of practice owners are continually struggling with, and/or looking for better ways to grow referral sources, grow payer sources, and acquire (and retain) more patients.
So, here are my 3 key takeaways from APTA PPS 2017 that resonated as super important for all rehab providers to consider:
1. Make Patient Engagement a Top Priority
Is your model “out of sight, out of mind”? We cannot just manage patients when they show up at the clinic. A common idea was that practice owners must use tools to reach out to patients before, during, and after care to make sure the experience of treating/managing a condition is done so with quality, value, and results.
Here’s a few examples:
- Informational blogs and links on your practice website,
- Call and text reminders
- Patient self-reported outcomes
- HEP follow up
- A patient report card on discharge
Telehealth was discussed in a few sessions as a great way to engage patients before, during, and even after care. If done properly, this can serve as a predictable source of patient referral and a model for ongoing growth and retention.
2. Build Your Patient Pipeline
What kind of marketing of your services do you do? How are your patients finding you? Don’t wait until the patient calls you. Look for strategies and tools you can use to educate people on conditions, topics, and/or exercises to improve overall health even before they have a problem. Social media, informative websites, and patient portals are great examples of that. Have a place people can go to learn or get questions answered. Not only active patients, but any person looking for information. At one point or another that person or someone that person knows may need rehab services, and they will remember your outreach.
Also, do you discharge your patient to never contact them again? Figure out ways to stay engaged with patients who are no longer receiving active care. Offer wellness programs or as simple as a follow up to see if the patient’s condition is still better or being managed. Continue to offer resources for learning and education. Build your presence before, during, and after care.
3. Share Your Success and the Value You Offer
Why should patients pick you? Why should referring physicians send patients to you? There are numerous options when looking for PT practices.
- Use the data and outcomes you are collecting.
- Show value that the care you are providing gets the patient better, faster, for lower costs.
- Show that you have high Net Promoter Scores and that patient satisfaction is high.
- Demonstrate how you engage patients as part of their plan of care and goal setting to offer a quality patient experience.
It is one thing to say it, but we all know you must show it. The only way to show it is by making collection of outcomes a top priority, and using the data to drive quality patient care and overall satisfaction.
These were just a few key areas discussed. APTA PPS is always a great conference to share and learn from, and we are already looking forward to APTA PPS 2018 in Colorado Springs. The passion and drive of the practice owners, therapists, and yes even the vendors are great examples of the caring individuals trying to make a difference in improving the patients experience and care. As healthcare continues to change, it will be important for practice owners to embrace software and technology to make it easier and more efficient to deliver care to patients.