At some point, if you want a successful physical therapy practice, you have to go beyond being an excellent physical therapist.
That’s the most important thing, of course. If you and your staff aren’t gifted PTs, and if you’re kind of phoning it in, every day then nothing else you do matters — and, obviously, you should probably do something else.
But if you feel like you’re a good or great physical therapist, and you feel as if your practice is floundering, then you probably need some new business strategies.
So if that’s what you’re looking for, you may want to consider the following.
Revamp your business plan.
This is good advice whether or not you’re interested in a Hands-On Diagnostics membership. And, yes – spoiler alert: We do think becoming a Hands-On Diagnostics member is an excellent way to help a physical therapy clinic become a more robust, high-profit business.
But, again, if you want to earn more money, revamping a business plan is a smart move, whether you own a physical therapy practice or a taco stand.
After all, how long has it been since you first opened your practice? And have you looked at your business plan since then? (And if the answer is, “I didn’t have a business plan,” therein may lie the problem.)
In any case, since you opened your PT practice, your needs may have changed. Maybe what worked for you when you started isn’t working now. Perhaps you don’t want to work 60 or more hours a week and get paid for what feels like 35 hours. Maybe the insurance reimbursements have become even more cutthroat and ruthless. Maybe your money issues have little to do with insurance and more because you’re paying too much overtime and should hire more staff.
The point is, things change, and every business needs to change with it or reap the consequences. If you start looking at your revenue and realize your profit margins are shrinking, then you obviously need to come up with a strategy that grows your business. As noted, we happen to think that strategy should be to become a Hands-On Diagnostics member, but the important thing — if you’re not making as much revenue as you think you should — is that you examine your business plan and audit your books and figure out what the issue is.
Offer more PT services.
For any business, offering more services is generally going to bring in more revenue, but the way it is done is important. For instance, to go back to that taco stand reference, if you owned one and decided to sell pizza and chicken along with your tacos, you would probably make more money, but because the foods are so different in how they’re prepared, you would likely burn out and destroy yourself and your employees.
With a PT practice, as you know, you may wear out your staff with more services, but you may not earn any more money, due to the whims of the insurance billing codes universe.
If you’re continually adding more treatments that you either can’t bill to insurers or the reimbursement is especially low, you may help the patients (which is great, and we want that!), but you certainly won’t help you or your staff by making more money (we want that, too!).
Too often, PT private practice owners are settling for profit margins of 10 percent or less, and they’re working more. Often, they’re working more than 60 hours a week.
We aren’t counseling not offering treatments that produce low to no billing. If you think an exercise or activity is good for your patient, obviously, it should be in your practice.
But you’ll help both your patients and your practice if you’re also offering services, such as diagnostics services, in which the billing codes are higher. Go figure, but an insurance company will pay you more if you’re able to offer, for instance, electromyography, which evaluates the integrity of nerves and muscles, than if your patient is spending time in a session working with a medicine ball.
Obviously, if your patient needs that medicine ball, they should work with it, but an electromyography session is going to yield more revenue and results.
In fact, most Hands-On Diagnostics members, for instance, bill in the neighborhood of $550 per diagnostic session — as opposed to the $70 to $100 per session that a typical PT practice will bill for.
Understand and analyze how you bill insurers.
That could mean hiring somebody who specializes in billing codes and working with insurers. It could mean partnering with a third party, like a medical billing service, which takes a percentage of your earnings. It also can mean becoming a Hands-On Diagnostics member, which has proprietary practices that allow your staff to bill insurers properly.
The bottom line, in any case, is that you need to work with an entity that understands the murky world of insurance and billing. If whoever is doing the billing doesn’t know the difference between CPT, HCPCS codes, and ICD-10 codes, you’ve got a problem. Because if you aren’t consistently billing insurers properly, you’re constantly losing money.
Chances are, you’re losing money anyway. Medicare announced an additional 9 percent reduction in all physical therapy rates starting in 2021. Medicare also announced that it would cut rates by 15 percent for physical therapy under PTAs.
PTs have to get that money back somehow. Billing properly and offering more services is a start.
But don’t forget the basics either. We mentioned revamping your business plan, and that offering superior treatment should be a given.
Another basic that’s easy to forget — especially if you are working 60 or more hours a week — is to get yourself out there in the community and network.
Admittedly, networking and getting the word out about your PT practice is harder than ever during a pandemic.
Of course, that is where being part of a network can help — doctors, nurse practitioners, and hospital administrators will be familiar with you instantly if people are familiar with the brand, and quickly, once they learn about it. But whether you’re part of a well-known, respected organization or an independent physical therapist flying solo, you should be trying to get out there and be involved with your community.
(On a side note, that’s something that we at Hands-On Diagnostics feel is very important. Last year, for instance, Hands-On Diagnostics started an initiative, PT For Heroes, a nonprofit mission that offers healthcare professionals who are on the front lines, working with COVID-19 patients and their families, free telehealth physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech pathology services.)
Getting involved with your community doesn’t necessarily need to mean giving back, though that’s an excellent way to do it. But just being present and networking at industry and community events can be a good way to get your practice’s name out there. And, of course, posting on Facebook and Instagram is a smart way to keep your name on everybody’s radar — and that’s probably the smartest way to network in these pandemic times.
But the bottom line is that if you want a successful PT practice, you have to go beyond being an excellent physical therapist. You need to serve your patients but also your physical therapy practice.