How Private Practice PTs Can Help More People During The Pandemic

On a recent Breakthrough webcast, we talked about flipping the pyramid in the healthcare industry to capture more of the spend on health services.

Right now, about 72% of what’s spent on healthcare each year goes to surgery, injections, medications, and diagnostic imaging. Just 2% goes to physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech combined. We want to be the number one skilled healthcare expert of choice, and to do this, we must become the foundation of skeletal and neurological health.

The recent pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench into this mission. Many practices are seeing declining appointments and revenues, which means you may not be helping as many people as you can. But if we’re going to push the PT industry forward and continue our greater objective to help people get back to normal naturally, we must survive the current crisis.

Let’s look at how you can do this on three different levels and be better prepared to help others:

Step #1: Managing Yourself

There’s a reason why airline companies tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first in the event of an emergency. You can’t help others if you’re not in a position to first take care of yourself. 

The times we’re living in are unprecedented. Many of us are experiencing extreme levels of stress and added worry about the future. It’s changed our entire way of living, even if it’s only temporary. If you’re not taking care of yourself first, it can put you in a dangerous position if you try to reach out and help others.

Right now, there’s a common fear of what this increased isolation will do to us as a society in the long term. Some people may not be mentally handling these changes well. The best thing that each of us can do is take care of ourselves so that we can continue to reach out and be valuable to others:

Sleep

Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep is an excellent resource that talks about how sleep is a daily detox of the brain and the way it affects the rest of your health. Ideally, you can use this extra time away from work to catch up on sleep and build healthier sleep habits.

Eat Well

Prioritizing the right foods can help us take care of ourselves for the short and long term. Some resources to check out are The Switch, Boundless, and Peter Attia’s podcast.

Exercise

Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand for a healthy lifestyle. Take this time to build more exercise and movement into your day, even if it’s “just” walking. At the very least, it can help combat the effects of stress eating.

Meditate

Finding clarity and making mental space in your day can help promote positive feelings and crowd out any stress caused by the coronavirus. 

Socially Distance But Stay Connected

Socially distancing yourself doesn’t mean you have to cut all forms of communication. Stay connected with your employees, family, and even your patients via text, Zoom, phone calls, or social media to maintain the human element.

Step #2: Managing Your Family

We’ve talked about this before at Breakthrough, but if you’re not taking care of your family, you won’t be able to handle the highest responsibilities of being a practice owner. 

Staying on a schedule can help everyone in your home maintain a sense of normalcy. Also, showing your spouse, children, and even parents your love and gratitude can make a difference in the dynamics within your home. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages is a powerful resource for helping identify ways in which we give and receive love that is well understood by others.

Step #3: Managing Your Business

When you and your family have put on your oxygen masks, you’ll be in a much better position to help your practice, employees, and patients. We talk a lot about the three pillars of a successful practice: Finance, Marketing, and Personnel. These pillars are just as important during the pandemic as ever, but the way in which you approach them may need to be adjusted.

Finance

You’ll want to focus on financial planning. How are you going to bridge gaps and survive until things get back to “normal?” Before the crisis, one of our top concerns was figuring out finances with declining reimbursements. Today,  a new challenge we have to factor in is what our income will look like based on grants, loans, and accounts receivables, as well as any new expenses you may have incurred due to loans, personnel changes, and potential vendor negotiations. One thing worth mentioning is that you may be able to negotiate some relief on your lease. Right now, not a lot of people are renting commercial property, and the last thing a landlord wants is to lose a tenant because they can’t afford rent due to closure.

Marketing

Before the crisis, one of the biggest marketing concerns was declining physician referrals. Many PTs are diversifying by going direct to the consumer and trying to influence their payer mix.

Staying in touch with patients will be key. Some practices may even consider offering telehealth options to give patients another option. The virus hasn’t taken pain away. If anything, it’s probably caused a lot of patients who were undergoing treatment to regress. Continue to provide value to your patients to stay connected.

Personnel

You should think through your current salary cap and how you can continue to employ your people and still be able to afford them. The PPP and the Cares Act offer some valuable help here, which we covered in an earlier blog post.

If you’ve had to lay off or furlough employees, you’ll want to consider how a reduced workforce will affect your ability to serve patients once you reopen. The good news is that not many people are hiring right now, so it should be relatively easy to build a pipeline of PTs and related personnel. Be transparent about your projections to rebuild and grow after the pandemic. 

We have a hiring course in Breakthrough University and other resources that support the three pillars of a successful PT practice. Visit LearnWithBreakthrough.com to learn more about Breakthrough University.

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