OptimisPT Practice Spotlight: Rancho Physical Therapy

By: Cheryl “Chae” Dimapasoc Canon, PT, DPT;  OptimisPT Director of Implementation and Compliance

We’re excited to spotlight a therapist that has been a shining light, especially during the darkness of the COVID pandemic. We are pleased to introduce you to Meagan Andrews, PT, DPT, ATC.  Meagan is the Area Director for all three clinics within the Southern region for Rancho Physical Therapy in Southern CA, and the clinic director for the Oceanside clinic.  We caught up with Meagan to discuss what factors allowed her clinic to actually grow during the COVID pandemic despite the many challenges that caused many clinics to significantly decline.

Chae: Your clinic saw an increase in revenue during COVID despite patients not being able to come in for a time and elective surgeries being cancelled.  Tell me what you feel may have made the difference to allow your clinic to thrive during such a challenging time.

Meagan: Working smarter. Many (patients) were afraid and didn’t want to come in, so we promoted safety and gave them options.  

The practice began using telehealth for the first time, like many practices were forced to do, as well as the optimumMe app to deliver the patient’s exercises.  Meagan indicated she had to adjust her way of thinking as a clinician to get people in the door.  She prided herself on being an exceptional manual therapist, but with that portion of the intervention not possible virtually, she had to rely on the other parts of her skill set that had always been an adjunct, but not always the main focus.

Meagan: More than ever before we let the patient take the reins.  They would answer “I’m getting this, but I feel like “this”, would help. For a specific example, patients would say “I’m getting stronger, I’m able to move better, but I still have a lot of pain. I feel like manual therapy would help push me over the hurdle to allow me to continue on my own”. Some patients were comfortable coming back into the clinic when the stay-at-home guidelines relaxed, but others were very hesitant. We let patients know we would see them in a private room, described the cleaning technique and let them actually see us doing it, which was important to them.  For those that were doing most of their program at home, we would have them come into the clinic perform the necessary manual therapy techniques for their condition, and send them off on their way.  The approach allowed them to slowly feel more comfortable.  We emphasized exercises at home. 

Meagan indicated that much of the staff had to be furloughed when the stay-at-home orders went into effect.  When the clinic opened back up, the clinic really had to “work smarter”. They utilized limited staff, moving the front office to the back to help out and vice versa.  The staff was diligent in calling patients, checking the Patient Retention report twice a week to ensure that no patients fell through the cracks.  The patients appreciated the team checking in on them, even if they weren’t coming in for therapy.  

Meagan: We asked the patient how they thought they can receive the treatment they need and keep safe. Certain patients “checked out”.  Some patients realized and admitted they weren’t taking responsibility.  People taking rehab seriously and taking ownership for their health wanted to be proactive and it was easier to implement exercise programs. We encouraged the patient to give feedback even more than typical.  We adjusted treatments to make them more independent and responsible for their care.  We realized that we should be doing it anyway, meaning getting back to basics and not have the patient feel like relying on the therapist to “fix” them.  Patient education proved to be the most important; they don’t want to spend hours doing exercises, they want to live their life.  Having them do their dishes, for example, while doing their heel raise or balance activity.  Working on getting in and out of their actual bed during a telehealth visit to teach proper mechanics and help them move without pain. Patients noticed exercises were helping, and their efforts were a primary reason for getting better.

Elective surgeries were a problem because their main referral source shut down during COVID.  Most planned surgeries had to wait until things opened back up. There was a new hospital and urgent care that had opened up right next door.  Meagan began stopping nurses and physicians on the way to the bathroom at the hospital, taking time to get to know people around them, and bringing to light that they were all in this together.  The personalized marketing in a safe manner made a big difference and the clinic saw referrals increase as a result of the effort.

During the summer when COVID cases calmed down slightly, the hospital was flooded with surgeries.  Meagan and her team began sending thank you cards to referral sources and utilized electronic faxes and emails from within OptimisPT to let physician offices know they were open.  

The practice used any downtime to work on improving their social media sites and engaged therapists from all clinics across Rancho Physical Therapy to contribute. Some patients and referral sources want to see the clinic before committing to come in to see the therapist or refer patients; the more professional the pictures of the clinic were and the better they got to know the therapists ahead of time, the more likely the patients were to flow in.  They used platforms like Facebook as an educational board and focused on providing helpful information on topics people can relate to.  Such topics included a 10-day series on low back pain, jaw pain, ankle sprains, tips on staying healthy during the flu season, natural remedies to help your healing process, repetitive strain, “tech neck”, and so many more.  Meagan found that the number of followers and hits to the site grew, which later translated into old patients returning and new patients calling to inquire about therapy.

Meagan: With all of this, the thing that made the most difference was Teamwork!!! People that stand behind you like (Marlene), our front office manager, have been amazing!! She went from managing just our clinic to helping manage 3 other clinics (in addition to Oceanside). Other leadership within the organization, especially our Chief Operating Officer, and many of our clinical directors within Rancho PT really came together as a team of leadership that continues to build each other up.  We focused on figuring out the needs to make every clinic successful, coming up with ideas to implement in the different size clinics, and how to most effectively solve additional challenges that arise. We grew together as a team and our company began to see the difference because of it.