Making a Real Connection: 5 Ways to Know if a Patient is Right for Your Practice

When trying to grow a practice, it’s common to focus on the quantity of patients coming through your doors rather than the quality. But when was the last time you took a step back and asked yourself, “are my patients right for my practice”? Have you ever asked that question? While this can be a tough one for therapists, it’s crucial if you want to continue providing the best possible patient experience, demonstrate positive outcomes and continue to get paid.

We often take a critical look at our internal misgivings and reasons for underperforming metrics, but don’t always look at external factors that push our metrics from green to red. However, like any other relationship, the partnership between a therapist and a patient is a two way street and a patient must be as committed to achieving their goals as the therapist is. Over the years I have found some clear red flags that a patient is not right for a practice. Here are five warning signs, the impact they could have on your practice and how to fix them.  

Patient is unable or unwilling to pay patient balances

The reality is that patient balances are increasing. In fact, 30 percent of the average practice’s total reimbursement comes from patient collections. If your patients can’t pay their balances and are unwilling to comply with payment arrangements, it may be time to make the difficult decision to part ways. Afterall, your profit margin is most likely lower than 30 percent, so if you don’t collect your patient balances, before you know it you’re going to end up paying your patients to come to therapy rather than the other way around. Work with a collection agency for past-due balances and make sure that you’re verifying benefits and communicating the patient responsibility up front. 

Patient does not participate in the development of their plan of care or will not complete home exercises

To reach their treatment goals, patients need to actively participate in their own care. A therapist can be an incredible clinician but if the patient isn’t willing to do the work, they will not improve. Make sure your therapists are working with the patients in developing the plan of care, explaining the “why” behind the treatment frequency and plan, and getting the patient’s buy-in.  Have some sort of check-in process when it comes to home exercise, and make sure that the patient understands how their actions (or inactions) impact their progress. 

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Patient cancels, reschedules, or no-shows often

Every time your front desk team touches an appointment more than once, they’re doing more work than they should be. Patients who cancel or no show end up costing you money, as you may not be able to refill the open spot in your schedule and selling spots in your schedule is what keeps you in business. Therapists with unproductive downtime are a huge financial drain.  Make sure that your therapists are working with the patient to explain the reasons behind the care frequency and work to schedule the entire plan of care at the first visit. Plus, have therapists check in with patients who miss their appointments to understand if there’s an underlying blocker to them attending appointments – and then work on a solution. 

Patient demonstrates drug-seeking behavior

While it might be difficult to stomach, patients who are in therapy are often in pain – and pain medications are a valid form of treatment. However, some patients can use therapy to obtain more prescriptions from their primary care provider without doing the work to get better. Obtain a medication list at every visit, work with patients to make sure that they are actively participating in their own care, and regularly communicate with the referring MD and their primary care physician to make sure that all treating providers have accurate and up-to-date information. 

Patient has little-to-no potential for improvement without significant medical intervention

As much as therapists try to help patients avoid unnecessary surgical intervention, sometimes that is the only way the patient is going to improve. Make sure you are obtaining health information from the referring provider and doing a full health assessment before starting treatment. 

Holding your patients up to the same standards that you hold your practice to may feel uncomfortable at first but taking the steps to ensure that all participants in the relationship are carrying their weight will end up making your practice run more smoothly, and you may be surprised at how many of your patients live up to the new standards expected of them. Know your value, and the value of your staff, and your patients will likely meet you more than halfway.


Sarah Baumann

Product Manager, Clinicient

Sarah Baumann is a Product Manager at Clinicient and brings to the organization over ten years of healthcare administration experience as well as revenue cycle and practice management knowledge. Sarah works with clients every day to help streamline their practice, maximize payments and minimize time to collect. She has been published on industry blogs and in publications discussing topics around practice management, business intelligence and revenue cycle management.

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