2020 started off like any other year…
For most PT clinics, patient flow goals were high. More and more people were coming to understand the benefits natural pain relief through physical therapy over the dangers or surgery and opioids.
However, in March 2020, the COVID-19 took threw the entire world into confusion and uncertainty leaving many small businesses, particularly PT Owners, scrambling to respond and adapt.
Unfortunately, the social climate created by COVID discouraged many current and potential patients from leaving their homes, causing some PT clinics to shut down. About 97% of physical therapy and rehab businesses saw a significant decrease in patient volume, but two areas were hit the hardest:
- Privately-Owned Practices – 65% of PTs in the private sector reported a loss in income, higher than any other segment.
- Doctor Referrals – 97% of private clinics reported a decline in referrals vs. just 81% reporting a decline in direct access.
Temporary closings, reduced patient flow, questions on Telehealth and essential care– clinics around North America faced a bombardment of obstacles while struggling to find their footing.
The PT Patient Flow & Recovery Guide:
But many clinics DID survive the coronavirus economy and some even thrived. Let’s take a look at what those clinics did & what lessons we can all take into the new year:
The first key to weathering a crisis is to have a Business Continuity Plan. This is a plan that lays out the most essential parts of your business to continue running in an emergency.
The key here is to make a plan that keeps your clinic running at as high a percentage as possible. If you can treat some patients, do it. Implement new tools like telehealth to keep treating as much as possible.
And it’s not just about treating!
Keep communicating with your current and past patients. Plan what marketing you’ll need to send out when things return to normal.
How Do I Apply This In My Clinic?
If you haven’t yet, check out the Business Recovery Curve for PTs. This strategy is leveraged by risk management departments worldwide and here we detail how it applies to PT practices:
(updated to prepare for 2021)
And That’s the Business Recovery Curve!
Unfortunately for those practices that discontinued their marketing and communication missed an opportunity to ensure current and past patients knew they were open.
With the threat of second waves still present, increasing your communication is one of the biggest lessons you can take away to ensure consistent patient flow in 2021.
In Summary, What Did 2020 Teach Us?
- Look at your budget like a business owner. PT school didn’t teach you this, but it’s vital to your clinic. Take a few minutes to learn basic financial crisis strategies such as the Business Recovery Curve before making a budget cut.
- Don’t rely on doctors. Referrals have dried up because of reduced caseloads and increased policy restrictions. You have to get your marketing message out to consumers directly. 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.
- Communicate MORE often. While your competitors are cutting back marketing out of fear, seize the chance to stand out with health and safety info on your website, social media, email, and other channels. Social media videos are a great thing to start doing as engagement rates have skyrocketed.
- Recover Revenue with your past patient list. Filling your schedule with past patients is up to 10X cheaper than adding new patients. Use your Newsletters, postcard campaigns, email, and even phone calls to get your fan base back in the door.
Looking Ahead to 2021
There is still a lot of uncertainty in the world, which is why NOW is the time to plan for your recovery. Whether a crisis has started or you want to prepare for future security, it’s better to be prepared.
Success Is possible!
We have clients already returning to normal volume– some even to 110%!
Sonia at Optimum Physiotherapy is already back at 110% volume. She leaned more into marketing throughout the pandemic, posting constantly on social media, using email campaigns, even running referral contest. Her call volume skyrocketed even as states were still closed! “If you don’t invest, you don’t get anything back!“ Sonia said. She further credits her marketing team at Practice Promotions with helping make her practice successful during this time.
So What Can You Do To Keep Volume Up In A Global Pandemic?
Focus on these three areas:
- Reassure your patients while you can still treat
- Increase communication with patients & your community
- Create your recovery plan so you don’t miss more time getting back up and running.
With these three tips, you’ll ensure your practice returns to 100%, is prepared for second waves, and reduce financial stress in the long run.
To learn the exact 5-Step PT Marketing Strategy used by practice owners in this article, click here.