We’re back with the Luna team for the second article in a 3-part blog series on challenges facing our industry and the opportunities we have to re-design the physical therapy experience. (In case you missed the first blog on therapist burnout, take a look here.) We welcome back Palak Shah, head of Physical Therapy Services, to outline how PTs can optimize the demands of work efficiencies while providing the best care possible.
Efficiency and Quality Care Collide
A host of challenges are present in healthcare as the drive for efficiency collides with providing the best care possible. Hospitals and private practices are emphasizing productivity metrics which means that patient throughput demands are at an all-time high. Therapists share that they are required to hit X number of units per patient per day to reach their productivity quotas, and it is not atypical to see between 50-60 patients per week, or 10-15 patients per day. Therapists worry that their quality of care suffers when they’re continually required to do more and more.
Physical therapists guide patients through their course of care which could include providing hands-on treatment or teaching special exercises to help patients move and function better. This takes time and a nurturing environment to cultivate a relationship of trust, especially with patients who are in pain. There is real fear that there is a divergence from delivering quality of care if the emphasis is on quantity of care.
While productivity is an important consideration for a practice, there is a balance to be struck between the need for more patients while respecting PT’s need for time to provide their clinical expertise for the best patient outcomes. We consider how to optimize therapists’ professional time so they can meet the goals of improving individual patient outcomes, improving the health of populations, and reducing costs so that quality is as valued as quantity.
Technology can ease the administrative burden
The trend of shorter patient interactions is proving to hold steadfast. These standards are entrenched in our current economy. Decreases for patient treatment times due to higher patient load are detrimental and known to lead to burnout, but there are opportunities wherein technology can greatly reduce administrative friction, and provide PTs time to focus on patient care that is top in quality while meeting quantitative metrics. PTs have to document every treatment episode, so make sure that you have access to technology that remove administrative burdens or clunky processes that add to your already overtaxed schedule. If surveyed anonymously, most PTs would say they don’t want to have to do paperwork, however, as healthcare practitioners, treating patients is only one facet of the profession. Documentation is a critical responsibility of therapists to collect patient information, capture and tell the patient’s story. Now with better technology, documentation no longer has to be a harrowing process that is administratively burdensome. In fact, providers can gain back time by leveraging the best tools that empower them to more quickly capture the care they’ve provided.
Create Efficient Systems
Creating systems that streamline processes are the time-restricted therapist’s savior. We know building rapport via interpersonal communication skills are vital for increasing your control. Job strain, a combination of high demands and low control, decreases the likelihood of good outcomes. So how can you create a system for that process? Efficient therapists typically utilize the following 2 methods to optimize productivity, while still supplying the best care possible.
The first method is efficiently building optimal rapport. Chris Voss of the Black Swan Group recommends mirroring, labeling, and asking open-ended questions. To quickly build rapport in a time sensitive environment, mirror your patient’s verbal and non-verbal actions. Then, after a statement has been explained, repeat what they said back to them, using the correct emotion they’re feeling. An example would be after a patient talks about her frustrations with low back pain, a good response may be, “Sounds like your back pain is really frustrating for you.” Listen to her response and calculate a good open-ended question that starts with a ‘What’ or ‘How’. Ask them, “what do you think will make it better?” or “how do you think we can work through this?” Both would be good open-ended questions that will facilitate a rapid interpersonal connection and ensure that you heard and understood the patient’s concerns to properly prescribe a course of care.
System two is staying on top of the current evidence. Deviation from evidence-based practice can take up vital mental resources and slow you down. For every potential treatment surprise, create an evidence-based system to follow. Say you have a top notch rotator cuff tear treatment protocol that works well with the majority of your patients. Not deviating from this system, by creating exercises at the moment, will help you reserve your mental energy and allow you to get more done in less time.
The pressure on therapists to be optimally efficient is higher than ever. However, we at Luna believe that—while these tactics are important—spending quality time and long sessions with our patients is the best way to deliver quality care. Because our care occurs in areas where patients are comfortable (their homes), patient compliance is high. Further, our system allows our therapists to see far fewer patients in a day (around 5), minimizing burnout and enhancing efficiency. This model is ideal for both our therapists and our patients. Patients receive long sessions, one-on-one, with therapists who are not strapped for time.
We hope these simple considerations can help you focus on providing the best quality of care while optimizing your professional time. If you are interested in either full-time or supplemental work opportunities in the Bay area, please contact us at www.getluna.com/own-your-career