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Throwback Thursday: Two Proven Metrics to Increase Therapist’s Time

In this installment on our blog, we are reaching into our archives to bring you some of our best and brightest blogs from over the years. Stay tuned every Thursday for more blast from the past blogs and articles that continue to hold keys to your practice success.

The word “selling” gets a bum rap, especially in outpatient rehab. In fact, studies indicate that humans spend as much as 60 percent of our time ‘selling’, even if we aren’t in sales. When we think about sales we often think of the pushy, bothersome salesperson who forces their way into our lives offering a product or service of no apparent benefit to us, just to benefit themselves. However, if we change our viewpoint slightly, we might recognize the need and the value of selling as an essential part of what we do to improve our patients’ lives and to improve our businesses.

Don’t be afraid of the “s” word:  We’re all in sales 

In what way is a physical therapy practice in sales? We are selling the benefits or value of the services we provide. We are selling referring physicians on the value of sending their patients to use for treatment to help them achieve their goals. We are selling therapist’s time. We are selling patients on the necessity and benefits of treatment, often multiple times a week—and we all know how much harder this has become with the increasing shift of costs to the patient. We are selling patients on the importance of following with their home exercise programs.

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You shouldn’t shy away from this selling mindset as you approach your relationship with your staff, your patients and your referral sources. Think about how much you believe in the value of the services you provide. The value of your therapist’s time, of your patient’s time, and the value of a referring physician’s time and the confidence they place in you each time they send you a referral (don’t miss this referral checklist to ensure you’re maximizing the value of your referrals).

How well are you selling your therapist’s time?

With that in mind, what are you doing to make the most of your time? Here are two metrics that every practice owner, therapist and front desk person should track as key performance indicators (KPIs) of how  you’re managing therapist’s time and referrals.

  • Vacancy Rate – this measures the amount of “unsold” time on a therapist’s schedule as a percentage of the total time available. Both the therapist and the front desk need to be thinking about “selling” this available time.
  • Average Scheduled Frequency – this measures the average number of days per week an active referral is scheduled for appointments. Each referral has a “capacity” for visits each week that is documented in your plan of care. Are you getting your patients scheduled and coming in for treatment? This is key not only to your patient’s improvement and achievement of goals, but also to your relationship with the physician who refers patients to you. They are looking to you to keep the patients compliant with the plan of care.

Once you start tracking these metrics, make a plan so you understand how you can improve these key metrics. Luckily, as you might be able to tell that these metrics are also linked together. If you have empty space in your schedule, you can fill it with patients who aren’t at full capacity and “kill two birds with one stone”.

This can also help you identify patients who have dropped out of care and enable you to work with them to get them back on track. Once you’re doing that, and your patients are achieving their goals at a faster pace, you’ll want to communicate the results you’re seeing to your referring physicians. As a result, you should start to notice more referrals coming your way, which will further increase your ability to fill your therapist’s schedules. When a patient cancels, your front desk will have the mindset of “filling the vacancy” and when you receive a referral, you’ll be focused on scheduling the patient in advance and making sure they’re tracking to the frequency dictated by the plan of care.

Try consciously talking to your staff about selling the most valuable asset you have – your therapist’s time. These subtle shifts can go a long way in improving not only your clinical results, but the bottom line for your physical therapy business as well.

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