Tips for Keeping Your Therapy Practice Afloat in the Covid-19 Economy
By: Jennifer Heiligman, PT, MPT
The negative economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been felt by most businesses. The rehab therapy industry is no exception. Especially hard hit have been the privately owned practices. The APTA conducted a survey of PTs and PTAs in May and repeated the survey in July to see how Covid was affecting them. Per the survey, clinics are seeing business improvements from what was reported in May. However, as of July, clinics are continuing to see a reduction in hours and income, as well as physician referrals, as compared to their pre-Covid numbers. With the recent surge in the pandemic, these reductions are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
There are actions that you can take, however, to help increase the chances that your practice survives these trying times. Within this blog we’ve compiled some ideas and tips to assist you.
First and foremost look at your budget as a business owner. We don’t generally get too much business education in physical therapy school, so this can be a challenging area. Take some time to learn some basic financial knowledge. If you feel you just don’t have the wherewithal to do this yourself, then go to a professional. Enlist an accountant, business financial advisor or hire a consultant. They will be able to assist you with budgetary planning and financial recovery.
You may also want to look into getting a small business loan as an option to help keep your doors open until the healthcare industry can rebound. Cutting all non-essential spending for the time being will help as well. Make do with what you already have.
Socially Distant Marketing
With physician referrals decreasing secondary to their decreased patient load, now is not the time to forego marketing. You will want to make sure you keep in touch with the physicians to let them know you are safely open and able to care for their patients. While traditional in person marketing is not an option, a lot can be done while maintaining social distance.
In addition, don’t limit your marketing to just physicians. Engage your past and present patients, as well. You can send email blasts and be sure to increase your social media presence to help gain new patients. The more you engage the patients, the more likely they are to remain loyal and return to your practice when they are in need of services. Posting your cleaning, disinfecting and social distancing measures may encourage them to seek out your care should they have immediate therapy needs.
For more specific socially distanced marketing ideas, please visit our previous blog post: 5 Socially Distant Marketing Ideas for Your Rehab Clinic
If you have not yet adopted telehealth services within your clinic, now is the time. (As long as your state practice act allows). While telehealth, in general, is currently reimbursed at a lower rate than in person visits, it is still a means to generate revenue. It also supplies a method to continue treating your patients in an environment that makes some of them more comfortable. Patients will remember that and, in the future when they feel safe, will return to your clinic when they have therapy needs. Think long term. Telehealth could be an add on service to help boost revenue in the future. Don’t forget to be sure to include that you are offering telehealth when marketing to physicians, patients and on social media posts.
How does telehealth compare to in person therapy? From the July APTA survey, 46% of those PTs that were able to compare in person versus telehealth visits say patient satisfaction was equivalent to in person therapy or even improved when using telehealth. In addition, 47% said outcomes were also equivalent to or improved as compared to in person visits. For additional information regarding providing virtual physical therapy treatment you can visit the APTA’s telehealth page. It is also a good idea to reach out to your payers to verify if telehealth is a covered therapy service and what coding or modifiers are required when submitting your claims.
Virtual Health and Fitness Classes
With the possibility of gyms and fitness centers being ordered to close again, or people just feeling safer exercising at home, think about your practice starting to offer virtual health and fitness classes. By charging for access to the classes this would create a revenue stream. This may cover some of the loss associated with decreased patient visit volume. Advertise this service to your referral sources, past and present patients, on your social media and reach out to community centers to get the word out. If this ends up being successful for your practice, think about keeping this as an add-on revenue stream into the future.
This pandemic has hit many businesses hard, including rehab therapy. Hopefully, this blog can offer some suggestions and ideas to help you maintain or even improve business during this economic downturn. With some planning and adjustment, your therapy practice can come out the other side even stronger than before.