Considerations for Incorporating Wellness Services into your Rehab Therapy Clinic

By: Jennifer Heiligman, PT, MPT

Research continues to support the importance of physical activity in maintaining good health.   There is a growing trend within our industry to offer wellness services, alongside traditional therapy services, in outpatient rehab clinics.  This trend can help to diversify revenue streams, but it also acts as a continuation of our interest in the health and well being of our patients and communities. The APTA supports the fact that Physical Therapists have the knowledge and skills to promote health through movement and therefore, are fully qualified to offer these services. 

If you are considering adding wellness services to the rehab services already available at your clinic, you will first want to review your liability insurance policy and your state practice act.  You will want to make sure your insurance policy covers services that may not be explicitly related to injury recovery or considered within the realm of traditional therapy services.  In addition, review your state practice act to be sure there is no verbiage that would preclude you from offering and providing services that fall within the wellness category. 

Initially, you will need to decide what types of wellness services you will offer.  Common categories include Yoga classes, Pilates classes, aquatic exercises, if your facility has a pool, and generalized gym programs.  If offering Yoga and Pilates, you will want to make sure you have an instructor who holds the appropriate certifications.  You may not have to look far, one of your therapists may already have the necessary qualifications.  Available clinic space will also drive your decision on services.  Do you have a private or semi private room that could be used for group classes?  If not, is there available floor space that could be used before or after normal patient treatment hours?  In addition, do you have a trained staff member who could act as the wellness instructor? Maybe you already employ an athletic trainer or a person who holds a personal trainer license.

A good portion of your wellness client base may come from your previous therapy patients.  You can design the program to help your patients transition into a wellness program when they have achieved their maximum benefit of therapy.  This is a perfect scenario for those patients that are motivated and want to continue with an independent exercise program.  A lot of patients may not feel comfortable going to a fitness center or gym, but because they are already familiar with your facility and staff they feel comfortable in the environment of your clinic.  

If gaining wellness clients from previous patients is part of your wellness business model, you will want to be very clear with those patients that once they transition to wellness, they are no longer therapy patients and will not receive one-to-one sessions with their physical therapist.  However, it is beneficial for staff to check in with the clients at specific time intervals.  For example, after 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and a year.  These check-ins allow the staff to be sure the client is using the equipment correctly and readjust the fitness program, as necessary, to meet the client’s goals.  

Create written materials that can be distributed to patients outlining the wellness programs you offer, their benefits and pricing.  You may notice patient family members interested in the programs as well.  In addition to informing previous patients of your wellness program, you can also market those services to the general public.  Be sure your referral sources are aware of your offerings too.  Knowing your clinic offers a convenient continuum of the patient’s health journey may increase their referrals to your practice. 

Offering wellness services is a great way to increase cash based revenue for your practice.  The question you will need to answer is:  What will you charge?  Do some research on what fitness classes and gyms are charging in your area.  That will at least give you a baseline.  However, don’t undervalue your services.  Your clinic setting may be able to offer more knowledgeable guidance than other facilities which may support a slightly higher price point for your programs.  

If you are an OptimisPT subscriber you have access to the HEART (Health Education and Risk Test) and START (Sport Training and Athletic Readiness Test) assessments.  The HEART assessment allows you to screen the patient for cardiovascular risk factors.  The START assessment conducts a strength and flexibility screen.  For your convenience, both of these assessments can be administered through the OptimumMe App.  These provide a great baseline measurement when the client starts the program to assist with generating an effective exercise program, as well as a way to track progress made in their quest for fitness.  For our OptimisPT users, please contact Support for additional information on these assessments.

When implemented appropriately, wellness programs within your facility can increase cash based revenue, provide excellent opportunities for patients who may not otherwise continue their exercises after discharge to do so, and facilitate continued communication with patients and their referral sources.  

If you are looking for additional information on how to successfully incorporate wellness services into your practice, the APTA offers a continuing education course in the form of a recorded webinar:  “Effectively Integrating Wellness/Wellness Coaching into Your Physical Therapy Practice”.  This course provides insight into the critical tools needed to create and implement wellness programs.