4 Reasons Patient Engagement Is Important To Your Outpatient Rehab Therapy Practice

By: Jennifer Heiligman, PT, MPT

Patient Engagement is the concept that refers to a patient using information provided by their healthcare provider and other respected resources to make educated, well-informed decisions about their care, treatment and recovery. The patient becomes an active participant in their healthcare journey.  Numerous research articles support the fact that an engaged patient is a more satisfied patient and has more positive outcomes.  Implementing a patient engagement strategy within your rehab therapy practice is important for many reasons. We have outlined 4 of those reasons below.

Reason #1: Increase Patient Volume

Patient’s have choices in their rehab therapy providers.  Per the Bureau of Labor and Statistics there are approximately 260,000 Physical Therapists, 144,000 Occupational Therapists and 163,000 Speech and Language Pathologists in the US.  Make your practice their first choice.  From the moment they schedule their first appointment, make them feel welcome and comfortable.  Treat them as people, not just patients. Increased patient volume leads to increased practice revenue.

Reason #2:  Decrease Missed Appointments

An unengaged patient may miss appointments.  They are more likely to not show or cancel their therapy appointments as compared to an engaged patient.  Missed appointments lead to decreased revenue.  In addition, it will also decrease the likelihood of the patient experiencing positive outcomes.  When a patient feels, at least partially accountable for their health, they become invested in the outcome and realize keeping scheduled appointments will help them be successful in their recovery process.

Reason #3:  Provide More Comprehensive Care

One method of increasing the engagement of a patient involves providing better communication.  This includes a more in depth discussion of the patient’s condition, what they can expect during their treatment, and actions they can take to experience the best outcome.  The discussion should also include patient goals. What is that patient hoping to gain or get back to after completing therapy?  Keep in mind your goals as a therapist may be slightly different from the goals the patient may have for themselves.  The patient should be actively involved in the creation of goals.  Improving the therapist/patient communication will lead to a more comprehensive level of care.  The patient will understand the therapist’s expectations and the therapist will understand the expectations set by the patient.  More comprehensive care leads to better outcomes and more satisfied patients.

Reason #4:  Better Outcomes

An engaged patient will be more involved in their care.  It is no secret that a patient who is a more active participant in their therapy will achieve better outcomes.  Better outcomes will lead to a more satisfied patient.  These happy patients will be more apt to refer friends and family members to your clinic.  This, in turn, will increase your patient volume and revenue.  The data that you have regarding the positive outcomes of your patients can also be used as a marketing method to increase your physician referrals.  Doctors want to send their patients to providers who get their patients better.  In addition, as value based care becomes a more prominent reimbursement method, positive outcomes can lead to increased reimbursement for your practice.

Patient Engagement Tools

In your quest to make patient engagement a priority for your practice, here are some patient engagement tools that will assist in your success. 

  • Patient Portal
  • Automated Appointment Reminders
  • Patient Engagement App (allowing the patient to view appointments, track progress and access their home exercise program)
  • Net Promoter Score 

In addition to improving and tracking your patient engagement, these tools can also help to ease the administrative burden within your practice which is an added benefit.  If you don’t currently use these tools, it is recommended that you seriously consider  implementing them.

Within the past few years, the healthcare industry has been catching up with other industries in recognizing that patients are consumers.  By engaging those patients in their healthcare journey it leads to more satisfied patients who experience better outcomes and are healthier. These patients will return to your practice for future therapy needs and recommend your practice to others.  An added benefit of increased patient engagement is improved employee satisfaction.  When therapists see their patients having improved outcomes, they feel more confident, have better conversations with their patients, resulting in better comprehensive care.  The combination of these factors all tie into the strategic growth and success of your rehab therapy practice.

If you are an OptimisPT user, you have access to all of the above mentioned tools.  Whether you are an OptimisPT user or not, to learn more about these tools and this topic please review our previous blog post:  Patient Engagement and Its Role in Value Based Care.