Why do patients come to you?

PT in Motion Article

What's the Attraction? Finding out Why patient's come to you

Pearls from the article

Problems

  1. Traditional Marketing to physicians (lunches, promo items) may not be the most effective strategy in today's market. Reasons for this include:
    • Direct Access is allowing us to bypass the physician referral source to some extent
    • Laws and Regulations are making it more difficult to market physicians
  2. Health care consumers continue to increase in education and intelligence and are relying less and less on the expertise of physicians to make decisions about their care.
  3. Customer Service is a key component of a successful practice, notably as consumers become empowered. Customer’s are asking the question more, “Is this a valuable service and use of my time and money?”
  4. Customers are becoming less loyal to a practitioner as conveience and having more mobile careers and lives force more frequent switching between clinicians as their career, insurance carrier and geographical location change.
  5. Insurance companies that are outside of network frequently drive patient decisions as care is more expensive out of network.
  6. From 2002-2009, referrals to physical therapists from physicians has dropped by nearly 50%, a SIGNIFICANT change in the way the PT business looks in less than a decade.
  7. Interestingly, location is having a larger impact on decision making as well than all other factors such as word of mouth, insurance company, or external marketing. External marketing continues to be a very poor driver of choice for physical therapy patients.
  8. Unemployment and the rising cost of health care (increased copayments/coinsurances) are often driving decision to forgoe physical therapy, or at least shorten attendance of physical therapy.


“Services that encourage patients and clients to become advocates for our practices, either via social media or by word of mouth, arguably may be the single most important strategy in overcoming barriers that are out of our control as clinicians. While it is not possible to change the amount of a patient's co-pay or deductable, it is entirely possible to provide a level of service that encourages patients to become advocates for our practices. Patients who leave our clinics feeling that they received excellent care and value for their health care dollar are likely to recommend us to someone they know who might need our services.”


Solutions

  1. Conduct surveys that focus on the customer experience, not just on satisfaction. If the patient had low expectations, and they were provided mediocre care, they may be satisifed. But they still might not have had the customer experience[1] you wanted.
  2. Build relationships with local organizations, such as gyms, community rec centers, retail stores (running, mattress stores, etc) to target clients that are already seeking intervention.
  3. Review your patients over the last 2 years and consider sending them a customer satisfaction and experience survey. This could be included in publishable study?
  4. Customers want to seek out information on their providers, so providing detailed bios on the website as well as making sure that social media promotion, notably those that involve rating scales are being used by your patients and that you are receiving good ratings. When you find a patient that is really pumped about physical therapy, really be sure to show your appreciate for spreading the word to their physician and their loved ones. Give them cards if they are willing to distribute them. It is often that only a handful of your patients are actually using word of mouth to promote your services, so focus on the ones that are the most influential.[2]
  5. Engage the patient more in the plan of care and let them be involved in deciding the content and frequency of attendance. Basically, more customer oriented care. Educate and empower them.
  6. Refer a friend program to promote word of mouth referrals.

References

  1. Anon. Customer Experience, It’s More Than Customer Satisfaction. Available at: http://www.customerservicemanager.com/customer-experience-is-more-than-customer-satisfaction.htm. Accessed August 24, 2011.
  2. Berry J, Keller E. The Influentials: One American in Ten Tells the Other Nine How to Vote, Where to Eat, and What to Buy. First Edition. Free Press; 2003.