One of the biggest challenges in any Physical Therapy practice is making sure patients remain compliant with their plan of care (POC). Patients who are not compliant do not get the care they need and in turn will not get the results they are seeking. This does not only drive down stats across the board – from the PT who has lowered efficiency if their patients aren’t showing up, to the front desk with a lower percent of arrived patients, but ultimately it negatively impacts the practice by not producing results for the patient resulting in less internal referrals. It takes a team approach to improve patient compliance. For example, the front desk can help by enforcing your cancellation and no-show policy. The patient care representative can help by making sure everything is going right for the patient and handling any upsets that would be a reason to cancel. What about the therapists? How can you train your therapists to get their patients adhere to their POC?
Be more interested than interesting
There is a saying that goes, “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” If you take the time to really get to know your patients, and treat them more than just a body part to fix, they will be that much more motivated to come in and get the care they need because you have taken time to develop a rapport with them. A therapist who shows genuine interest in their patient will build trust and confidence and in turn improve compliance.
Communication is key
The art of communication is truly a learned skill. In order for the communication cycle to be effective, you must first have the other person’s attention and be able to speak clearly with specific intention. The other person must be patient enough to really listen and hear what is being communicated. In order for this cycle to be complete, this person must be able to duplicate what is being said, before giving a response back. An example of a break in this communication cycle would be when you are explaining to your patient the biomechanics involved in their rotator cuff injury and their eyes glaze over. He or she is not able to duplicate what you are saying and therefore they do not understand what is wrong with their shoulder. It is critical for you as their therapist to recognize this and rephrase your explanation in more understandable terms to ensure your patient is able to duplicate and really process what you are saying. If they understand the “why” behind the POC you develop with them, they are more likely to stay compliant.
Get on the same page
Sometimes poor compliance is the result of a therapist and patient not being on the same page. For example, if your patient is an 83 year old male who has fallen 5 times in the past month, but thinks he does not need physical therapy and is only in the clinic because his doctor told him to try PT, you, as his therapist, are going to have an entirely different perspective. There’s two very different realities! It is your job as his therapist to help him understand how his impairments are contributing to his lack of balance and ultimately putting him at risk for additional falls. It is your responsibility to heighten his awareness of the problem, so he commits to your professional recommendations.
Explain the what and the why
More information is always a good thing. Making the patient part of the treatment process will build trust between you and them. Transparency breeds trust and trust builds agreement. Explain everything that you are doing in treatment and why you are doing it. The patient will respect and appreciate it.
Match their temperament
Some patients are grumpier than others and want an ally, not someone to cheer them up. Match the temperament of the patient when they are in your care. If they improve in attitude you follow suit, but try to mimic their mood and they will relate to you much more. If they are positive, match their positivity – maybe they WANT a cheerleader. But don’t try to be overly peppy with a lower-tone patient, chances are you’ll come off as annoying and will be unable to get on the same page – which is imperative to gaining patient compliance.
When it comes down to it, if people think you care, they will care. If the patient knows that the clinician has their best interest in mind, they will be on board for their care. However, if the clinician isn’t showing that they have the patient’s best interest at heart, chances are that patient isn’t going to want to show up for their appointments and won’t believe your clinic truly has the patients’ interests at heart.
Want to have a way to not only train your clinicians to be more efficient, but also more effective? Schedule a demo of MEG Academy to learn about our PT Enhancement course as well as our other enhancement courses for your marketing and front desk staff members as well.
Brian Gallagher, PT is the founder and CEO of MEG Business Management, LLC. He has more than 27 years of experience in the field of rehabilitation and 19 years in business and specializes in Physical Therapy practice management and executive coaching nationwide. As a licensed business management consultant, Brian has helped hundreds of business owners nationwide improve their business operations through proper restructuring to achieve improved systems of efficiency and productivity as well as marketing and sales with effective public relations which have proven results for double-digit growth year-over-year with businesses around the country.