Has your practice suffered due to COVID-19?

You’re not alone.

The APTA just published a comprehensive study on the full impact coronavirus has taken on the Physical Therapy Industry. The report is based on responses by more than 5,400 PTs across many different practice settings and jurisdictions.

Below, I’ll walk you through the key takeaways as they relate specifically to the Private PT Sector.
(you can read the full report here)

Coronavirus Impact Study:

Key Takeaways for Private Clinics

Takeaway #1: Don’t Lean On Doctors Right Now

– 81% of Private PT clinics report decline in Direct Access
– 97% report decline in Physician Referrals

Covid Impact on Physician Referrals

What does that say? The way to keep patient volume right now is to move away from relying on physician referrals so heavily since physicians are now subject to more restrictions & policies than the general public.

How can you react? Focus your marketing efforts on going direct to the consumer – patients. We’ve been harping on this strategy since we first started helping clinics almost 10 years ago…Leverage your customers!!!! Make sure current & past patients know you’re still open, then get the word out to potential new patients.

Takeaway #2: Private PTs Took The Hardest Income Hit

– 65% of Private Physical Therapists report a decline in income.

Coronavirus PT Income Impact

This is the highest among any segment of PTs surveyed. The loss has been very real.

How can you react? When it comes down to it, Private PTs are the most like entrepreneurs than other groups. Your income depends on your outflow (aka marketing). As states reopen, double down on bringing people back first & foremost by TELLING people that they can. The more you can communicate, the faster you can recover.

Check out the Business Recovery Curve training for more on this concept of quick recovery.

Takeaway #3: The “Telehealth Gold Rush” Was A Nervous One

Telehealth During Coronavirus

Despite 71% of private PT practices adopting telehealth to continue operations, the study also mentions that “Of those surveyed, 25% of PTs were confident they were being paid for telehealth consistent with in-person services, while 53% were unsure how their payment compared.” Similar sentiments were recorded as far as patient satisfaction.

How can you react? Physical Therapy Telehealth got shoved to the forefront like a bird learning to fly. Those who adopted it certainly had challenges, but it still stands poised to be a positive impact of Coronavirus if done correctly.

Neil Trickett, PT & Marketing Expert, recently speculated:

“I see the PT industry transitioning to a blended model of telehealth. Most treatment will continue to be in-person, but practices will be able to bill for add-on telehealth services later in treatment plans, or even offer subscription-based monthly checkups for past patients at extremely low overhead cost.”

The study also goes on to recommend developing a long-term telehealth strategy. To be successful, though, will require processes your team can easily understand and train on. You don’t want to outweigh the benefits by spending too much time on it.Related:Tips on setting up & marketing telehealth [PDF]

Takeaway #4: Most Owners Weren’t Ready

PT Owner Covid Decline

Nobody knew this was going to happen, but financial crisis in business IS almost as certain as taxes… don’t let it be the death of your business!

Despite a devastating 72% of Owners reporting revenue decrease of 51-100%… the study shows only 30% had an emergency preparedness plan in place.

How can you react? Thankfully most respondents reported the Paycheck Protection Program provided some relief. That said, if you’re a practice owner it is vital to remember you are a business owner first, therapist second. Take the time to learn what PT School didn’t teach you. This crisis already happened, but it won’t be the last. You CAN be ready next time!

Here’s a great video on financial planning specific to PT clinics.

Takeaway #5: APTA Might Have Surprising Benefits

Preface: we don’t get any kickbacks or benefit from promoting the APTA.

That said, the data from this report shows “APTA members were more likely to report being approved for a loan than nonmembers (69% vs 52%)” This could be a symptom of more financially stable practices being more likely to pay for a membership, but it could also indicate how being aligned with a well-resourced peer group can help each member learn & grow.

Takeaway #6: Direct Access Restrictions Must Be Removed

The author states:

“Efforts to flatten the curve are specifically designed to avoid overwhelming hospitals and other medical facilities. Enabling consumers to go straight to a PT without restrictions allows more timely and effective care to optimize outcomes in all situations and is of heightened importance during a pandemic.”

And we couldn’t agree more. Handcuffing private practices is not only limiting the industry & its members but ultimately reduces the number of patients that could be helped faster & at a lower cost.

We hope states & insurance companies are seeing this as clearly.

Final Takeaway: What About This 7 % Of Clinics?!

Covid Recovery Top 7%

In times of hardship, it’s easy to see the bad. But many answers often lie in seeking out the GOOD.

>> There are private PT clinics succeeding even now. <<

Let that encourage you! Look to them! Here are a few examples:

Sonia at Optimum Physiotherapy is already back to 110% volume.
She leaned into marketing harder through the pandemic, posting constantly on social media, using email campaigns, even running referral contests. Her call volume skyrocketed even as states were still closed. She says “If you don’t invest, You don’t get anything back!” and credits her marketing team at Practice Promotions with helping make her successful during this time.

Austin Manual Therapy Associates reports quick recovery after a scary start.
The best decision AMTA made was to take the time & use every marketing resource they had access to so patients would keep listening. Read their full story here.

What these practices have in common is never stop communicating with potential patients. Once you go quiet, they will assume the worst & forget you. Find the clinics having success and learn from their wins!

Summarizing The Impact Of Coronavirus
  1. Marketing directly to patients is more likely to succeed right now.
  2. Private practice PT’s felt the Coronavirus impact harder than most.
  3. Telehealth has had problems but has also made years of progress in just a few months.
  4. Take time to learn financial planning so you can keep treating people with peace of mind.
  5. Consider joining the APTA.
  6. Direct Access restrictions are once again in the spotlight.
  7. There are clinics having success, follow their lead!
Looking Ahead:

According to the report, “APTA will conduct a follow-up survey in June or July to evaluate changes.” Be on the lookout for that study & consider taking part in the survey.

Related:Create A 5-Step PT Marketing Plan

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