There can be many factors that go into a patient’s decision not to complete therapy—or maybe even complete it elsewhere. Location may be a factor, or the patient may have personal obstacles in the way. In most cases, however, the reasons for a patient disappearing from therapy lies within your practice.
You’re a great therapist—you know it and your patients know it. BUT, there are still many mistakes you could be unknowingly making that have a huge impact on your patient experience. (Be aware… your front desk staff also has a huge impact on patient experience as well).
Mistake #1: Not explaining the “why”
Your patients may not understand why physical therapy is important or why they need to complete their entire plan of care with you. If your patient feels better halfway through therapy and doesn’t know why they need to continue therapy for the next few weeks, he or she may decide to just skip it.
Give a REASON for everything you do so that your patients understand the logic behind certain plans of care and treatment methods. If they feel more “in-the-know” they will likely be more engaged and empowered when it comes to their therapy with you.
Mistake #2: Not demonstrating the value of care
What sets you apart from the therapist down the road? Why should your patient continue treatment with you? You can provide the outcomes your patients want and help them get back to a more active life—show them that!
If your patient loves golfing, make sure you explain how their therapy with you will get him back on the course in just a few short weeks! People care about their quality of life and what they will be able to do in the future. Sure, you can tell him his knee pain will be gone after 8 weeks of therapy—but it may be more valuable to tell him that he will be able to play 18 holes on the golf course without any pain in just 8 weeks.
Mistake #3: Not listening
It’s so important to listen to your patients from the first moment you meet, to the end of their treatment—and even after! You should take the time to get to know your patients in the beginning so they know you care and you can understand what is important to them. Many patients actually view PT as a social affair, so finding out more about their goals will help you help them get back to what they love doing. (*Not every patient comes to PT to socialize…).
You also want to gather feedback from your patients through their plan of care. Ask them weekly how they are feeling, what concerns or questions they have, etc. You can make adjustments in their treatment or provide clarification if needed. If you don’t ask them questions and really listen to what they have to say, you may miss out on factors that will effect outcomes.
Mistake #4: Not following up
Similarly to not listening, not following up with your patients can be a big mistake. You don’t want to send someone out of your practice unhappy, so make sure you follow up after discharge and get their feedback. Your front desk can make the call or you can provide your patients with a survey online. You could even provide an in person survey at the end of treatment… you will get more responses this way. If you employ multiple therapists, you’ll start getting more information on your team and can more effectively manage them too.
Following up with your patients has additional benefits. If your patient is having any pain or difficulties, you can schedule him for additional treatment or evaluations. You can also recommend any other products or wellness services you offer, and also build referral relationships with local physicians if they are in need of other services you do not offer. This is a great time to nurture the relationships with your patients and assist them in other ways they will appreciate.