Value-Based Care is Transforming Physical Therapy in Many Ways
Now more than ever, it’s critical that physical therapy practices are providing value and proven outcomes to each patient. Of course the goal of every physical therapist is to provide essential care to patients of all types. But do you have the data to demonstrate this care?
Keeping detailed outcomes records is a huge benefit for your practice when it comes to acquiring new patients. This data can also be beneficial when advocating for insurance reimbursements and service coverage.
There are several factors physical therapy practice owners must address to have a successful practice. But above all, patient care is paramount. And patients want proven, demonstrated success from healthcare providers.
Whatever the case may be, If you’re not pivoting your practice towards value-based care, there’s a chance your rehab therapy practice is leaving money on the table.
A value-based care model can be implemented in several ways — there is no one-size-fits-all approach. There are a few key considerations, however, that should be addressed in a successful model. These include:
- Leveraging patient engagement strategies
- Optimizing workflow
- Making smarter technological investments
Read on to learn more about value-based care and some of the best ways to adopt them into your practice.
Why Is It Essential To Provide Value-Based Care?
Value-based care is at its core about providing valuable services. This includes services to patients, payers, and providers.
When patients seek physical therapy services, their expectations are simple: they want to get better.
Each patient is unique and so are their expectations of the recovery journey. Depending on the course of treatment, therapy services add up quickly for the patient — even for in-network services. Many patients are willing to accept this financial responsibility, in exchange for recovery and a return to their typical lifestyle. This means they expect to get better and they expect service equivalent to their investment — in both time and money.
What offers patients the best value for their investment? Physical therapy.
Part of the value-based care model involves positioning physical therapy as the first healthcare contact for patients.
Understanding Physical Therapy as the First Point of Care
The goal of physical therapy is to find effective ways to treat illness and injury, and promote better health. But the key to this is beginning the process as soon as possible. One study sponsored by the APTA showed that 75% of the time, when musculoskeletal patients see physical therapists as their initial healthcare professional, the patient gets better. These numbers are huge – but still only a fraction of the reason why physical therapy care is beneficial to patients.
Benefits of physical therapy as the first point of care include the reduction of the use of medication (both prescription and over the counter) and decreased medical expenses for patients and payers long-term.
The sooner physical therapy begins, the better. Another benefit? Physical therapy care is ideal for treating numerous health conditions, so chances are that you’ll be able to find solutions for your patients that align with these value-based services and outcomes.
Now that you’re on board, the question is: how do you do it? Continue reading to learn how practice owners can adopt a value-based care model into an established business model.
Finding cost effective ways of delivering high-quality physical therapy is necessary, but where do you start?
How to Implement Value-Based Care In Your Therapy Practice
Data is the key.
Patient outcomes data is useful for many reasons, but most importantly, it shows that you’re focused on results, not dragging out physical therapy care plans. This benefits you because it helps instill trust. It benefits payers because it helps them understand timelines for recovery (and shows them the likelihood of fewer sessions). But most importantly, it benefits patients. If payment reimbursement is conditional with patient outcomes, more patients are likely to try your services.
The first step is carefully considering – and in some cases – rethinking your care model. Three ways to do this are by choosing to:
- Market directly to consumers and potential patients, instead of relying on referrers
- Embrace technology, and utilize it to your advantage
- Track all patient outcomes to gauge success
After revamping your care model, shift the focus to connecting with your patients.
Reimagine How You Acquire and Connect with Patients
The first step is to challenge the conventional wisdom that new patients must only come from physician referrals. Practice owners to spend valuable time and resources creating and maintaining a referral network. And this network is valuable, but it’s not the only way you can acquire new patients.
What if you also invested resources into direct communication with potential patients? Rather than waiting on a referral, go directly to the source. But what exactly does that mean?
- Communicate directly to your patients. Speak to them in ways they understand.
- Be transparent about your services and their costs. Tell people what to expect when choosing your services.
In this case, you need to view your patients as consumers, they aren’t simply patients. You need to appeal to them in various ways. When you communicate directly with patients, you empower them to take charge of their health and healthcare decision-making.
The best part? Most states have some form of direct access.
Direct Access and Patient Referrals
Direct access to physical therapy is changing the game for countless practices, allowing patients to complete physical therapy without a physician referral — saving the patient time and money!
Yes, they need care, but rather than have to spend time at an urgent care center or a primary care office, patients can go directly to physical therapy and start getting better. After all, the sooner they start treatment, the better their outcomes will be. Physical therapists understand this. Now, patients need to.
If your state doesn’t fully support direct access, don’t let limitations get you down. Find ways to work around it.
Make connections with your potential patients. You can still collect information, provide them with an understanding of what you offer, and set yourself up for whatever comes next. Those without referrals today may be patients with referrals tomorrow. Creative solutions set you apart from others, even if you’re just finding new and different ways to appeal to potential patients – and encourage them to visit you for care.
Expanding Access to Physical Therapy Services
In order to make it easy for patients to receive direct access care, physical therapists have to re-evalute how to provide that care.
- Increasing access & mobilization of PT services
- Meeting patients when and where they want care
- In clinic
- Via Telehealth
- At home
If physical therapy is meant to help patients over time, it needs to be accessible. A service – no matter how carefully planned and widely available – isn’t going to provide value unless people use it. Increasing access to care is about more than simply reaching patients, though. To truly succeed and help those in need, you need to rethink your patient/provider relationship.
Having various treatment options increases patient access. This includes home visits and Telehealth. These opportunities expand access for rural patients, those without transportation, individuals that only need wellness screenings or consultations, or those that are simply too busy to make it to a clinic.
One of the reasons that it is essential to improve access across the nation is that doing so helps all populations – but especially vulnerable ones.
For example, consider the aging population.
There are over 70 million people in the United States that are classified as “Baby Boomers”. Many of them require physical therapy for various health reasons, or simply need help staying active in order to combat musculoskeletal conditions. Whatever the case may be, making care more accessible to them begins with what you have to offer.
- Is your care easily accessible to patients of all age groups and need levels?
- Do you offer digital care?
- Are you incorporating adaptable technology?
- Does your clinic offer Telehealth?
Consider these options for value-based services, and figure out the best ones to begin using in your practice. If your offerings aren’t accessible, change them. If you need to begin collaborating with home healthcare providers, or companies that offer Telehealth platforms, begin looking. Use the tools available to you, but also be willing to explore new options.
The more you do now, the easier it will be to make changes in the future.
Embracing Technology Helps Provide Value-Based Care
The value-based care model relies on physical therapists and practice owners embracing new technology. As the COVID-19 pandemic showed, practices willing and able to implement and use new technology will continue to grow. On the other hand, those that stuck with the tried and true methods likely did not see as much growth and positive change.
Being adaptable is one of the most important considerations to make as a physical therapy practice owner.
For example, when you look at technology as enabling and enhancing quality of care, you can consider all of your options more clearly. Some of the benefits of utilizing digital tools for physical therapy care include promoting:
- Direct online booking instead of a “Request Appointment” form
- Cash-based services
- Accepted in-network insurances
- Self-pay options
Each of these options provide value for patients in a different way.
Telehealth should be a staple in your practice’s toolbox. If you still think Telehealth was only a temporary treatment substitution, you’re missing out on potential patients. This technology has the potential to add 20% more patients to your therapists’ caseloads. That’s 20% additional appointments.
Research shows patients outcomes are comparable between Telehealth and in-person appointments. Patients who give Telehealth high ratings like the convenience, comfort, and safety of receiving treatment in their homes.
The convenience of ease of Telehealth means you can see patients sooner and that translates to better outcomes.
In addition to the patient’s convenience, platforms like BetterTelehealth provide ease of use and efficiency to your therapists and clinic staff.
- Fully HIPAA compliant platform, including automatic email and text reminders
- EMR-integration saves your staff time scheduling appointments
- Video & audio recording allows patients to view their sessions even after they’re complete. Patients can refresh specific exercises and the correct movements whenever they need to
- Easy to use for all types and ages of patients
- It’s an in hand asset for the patient, as they can access sessions anywhere, as long as they have a device with the capability to connect to the Internet.
- Family members and caregivers can view the sessions to help keep patients accountable to home exercises and plan of care.
Many medical professionals believe that Telehealth reimbursements will outlast the Cares Act. Why? For starters, patients are using Telehealth services and getting better. And they report benefiting from the convenience of virtual visits. This means it’s working as part of the treatment plan – and patients will demand it in the future, too.
Another reason Telehealth is likely to remain in high use is that physical therapists, occupational therapists and other medical professionals know it exists. Due to this, they know how to make it work for them.
Why limit use of something that truly provides benefits to everyone involved?
Data and Reporting Pave the Way for Value-Based Care
The only way to truly understand and demonstrate the full benefits of services or changes is to track them. The results will speak for themselves.
First, understand that you aren’t just looking at numbers – you’re looking for results.
This data benefits three distinct parties:
- Practice: As a practice owner, you want to understand where your patients come from so you can maximize that referral channel
- Payers: It’s important to show clinical outcomes to payers. Providing proof of improved health over time not only outlines a model for healthcare costs, but shows long term health benefits. The more detailed your results, the more leverage you have in contracts and services coverage.
- Patients: Build a track record of success. Patients research prior to making healthcare decisions. They want to see results. Being able to share rich data and positive outcomes will help convert new patients.
A proven track record builds trust and confidence.
Value-based care relies on the collected data. If you’re not already collecting these data points, that’s the first step.
Once you have the data collected and analyzed, you can begin to evaluate and update your care model.
Strategically Scale Your Practice to Incorporate Value-Based Care
This is an opportunity to bring new patients into your clinic family, so don’t waste it.
When choosing the value-based care model you want to adopt, it’s important to remember that this is a fee-for-service world. It’s ok to want to make a profit, but you need to be smart about the way you do so – and the way you market your services.
With the use of telehealth and the demand for new types of care, it’s no longer simply about the physician referrals. You need to find ways to market directly to consumers, drawing them in for these direct access services and appointments.
Stop depending on physician referrals.
Don’t base your business model solely on reimbursements from these referrals. Utilize the data to communicate with new patients and convert them outside of your referral network.
Adapt to the ever-changing demands of the physical therapy world. Not doing so means getting left behind, and this is unacceptable. Yes, your profits and earnings are important, but in order to maximize them, you need to understand what sets you apart from the competition.
The pandemic proved that shifting and following demand – like with Telehealth services and in-home physical therapy interactions – works. No, you won’t be able to make every change at once… but you need a place to start.
Start by focusing on one or two aspects, and work from there. The most important consideration? Use what you already have available. Don’t completely eliminate the business plan you’ve already got in place – retool it instead. Being open to changes and looking for the ones that suit your needs best might sound difficult, but in the end, it’s necessary.
As mentioned, data is the key to the successful implementation of value-based care.
Before implementing change, be sure you’re able to track these changes simply and efficiently.
One solution is BetterPT.
This technology solution helps practices convert leads to patients by providing direct online booking and inbound patient management tools. Direct online booking allows you to capture patients any time of day, even after hours! Plus EMR integration gives patients a real-time selection of available appointments.
Not only can you capture patients when they’re ready to convert, your staff saves time having to sort through several appointment request forms. Furthermore, BetterPT’s dashboard shows you where your patients and potential patients come from. This is valuable data for acquiring new patients, helping you make data-backed marketing decisions. If you’re still relying on request appointment forms on your website homepage, it’s time for an upgraded technology solution.
Start collecting data, and be sure that you’ve got the right tools and technology on hand to begin the process of incorporating value-based care to your patients through your practice. Patients will start to look elsewhere when and if they feel as though the full benefits of care aren’t realized. This is not what you want, and it shouldn’t happen, especially if you’ve got the opportunities to increase revenue right at your fingertips.
Do not get left behind.
This article was adapted from a recent panel discussion, “Is your therapy practice leaving money on the table?” hosted by Forcura featuring participants from Casamba and HealthTek Consulting Group as well as BetterPT’s Chief Development Officer, Marla Ranieri, PT, DPT, OCS. View the full presentation here.