Patient Experience

3 Signs Your Patient is About to Drop Out of Therapy

The worst thing your patients can do during their physical therapy plan of care is quit before completion. When patients miss appointments or drop out of therapy completely, they often don’t get better. Some even get worse.

If you want your patients to reach their goals and complete their plan of care, you need to be able to identify the signs of potential drop out. If you can identify these signs, you have a better chance of fixing the problem and getting your patient motivated again.

Here are three signs your patient is about to drop out of therapy:

#1 Using negative language

As soon as you start hearing your patient say things like “I don’t think I can do that,” “This isn’t going to get better,” “Physical therapy isn’t helping,” or “I’ll just have to deal with this,” you can bet your patient is thinking about quitting (WebPT).

This kind of negative self-talk is so common in patients experiencing injuries and chronic pain (but we don’t have to tell you that). Put a stop to it immediately by reassuring your patient of the benefits of physical therapy and the importance of sticking to their plan in order to reach their goals.

Use uplifting language in your communications with them and give positive feedback with they do well in therapy. Positive feedback and encouragement from you will excite and motivate your patient to continue working hard in therapy.

#2 Not completing HEPs

Patients don’t complete their HEPs for many reasons. Maybe they’re busy, maybe they’re unsure how to do the exercises, but usually it’s a lack of motivation. It stems from patients not understanding the necessity of HEPs. You know better than anyone that if they don’t do their HEPs, they won’t progress as fast as they want to – which may lead them to think physical therapy isn’t going to work for them.

Make sure you fully educate your patient on their HEPs and WHY they need to complete them. Make sure your patient knows their health and progress is their responsibility and they’re in control. Get them motivated to complete their HEPs!

#3 Skipping appointments

When your patient is skipping appointments, showing up late, or canceling without rescheduling, you need to call them immediately. Again, this all comes down to educating your patients. Talk to them and find out what their fears and concerns are. Then, reassure them by explaining their plan of care thoroughly and showing them how therapy will help them get back to the lifestyle they desire.

Patient dropout is easy to identify before it occurs, yet it happens all the time. It’s imperative that you keep your patients coming back for their appointments for the livelihood of your practice and your patients. You can’t help your patients if they don’t complete their full plan of care.


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