Improving the Patient Experience to Gain Referrals

July 9th, 2019
By: JobsTherapy.com Content Staff

You probably wouldn’t go to a movie or eat at a restaurant that had mostly negative online reviews, so when it comes time to look for a physical therapist, why should patients behave any differently? In a blog post on BetterPT, physical therapist and health care executive Brian Gallagher says PTs should focus on improving the patient experience if they want to earn referrals from patients and create positive word of mouth.

Gallagher, the chief executive of MEG Business Management LLC, a physical-therapy business-solutions company, was writing for BetterPT, which helps to bring referrals and inbound-patient management solutions to PT practices. Gallagher writes that 83 percent of online purchases on sites like Amazon occur after a customer has read at least one product review. He says this common shopping practice is an example of “group agreement,” meaning that if many people have had similar experiences – good or bad – with a retailer, an individual shopper will expect the same thing.

Gallagher writes on BetterPT that since people like to share their positive experiences, a PT practice’s greatest asset is its patients. When they tell family members and friends about a PT experience that exceeded their expectations, those potential patients are likely to believe it because the review is coming from someone they know, like and trust.

A reputable PT practice should get at least 45 percent of its new patients each month from what Gallagher calls “return business” – the friends and family members of existing patients who have recommended the PT practice. Measuring the percentage of new patients from return business will give the PT practice invaluable insight into its patients’ level of satisfaction. If a PT practice lacks return business, it probably isn’t meeting its patients’ expectations, Gallagher writes on BetterPT.

Unfortunately for businesses of all kinds, bad news spreads farther than good news, Gallagher writes. He says the average customer who has a bad experience at a local business will share that experience with 15 people, whereas the average customer who has a positive experience will tell only 11. Assuming that every new patient is worth $1,200 to a PT practice, a single disappointed patient could cost the practice as much as $18,000, Gallagher writes on BetterPT.

Gallagher offers the following tips for PT practices looking to capture the full value of each patient.

  • Train staff to use a gentle, sincere tone of voice that conveys a sincere interest in a patient’s well-being. Additionally, use the “Give Me 5” drill, in which a member of your staff should be able to share five facts about any patient she has treated that day. Doing so encourages staff members to take a genuine interest in each patient.
  • Establish a program that rewards patients for referring people to your PT practice, and host holiday games or patient-engagement activities each month so patients feel like more than just a number to the practice.
  • Survey patients throughout their care plan about what they think of their experience with your clinic. This practice shows patients that the clinic wants to improve and cares about patients’ experiences, and the feedback from patients can be very informative. Gather patients’ success stories and ask if you can share them on social media sites and with new patients who are seeking validation that they made the right treatment choice by coming to your clinic.
  • Gallagher writes that a PT practice’s brand is what the public says about it when they aren’t there, so a successful clinic will understand that every patient is a potential branding agent. By reminding yourself every day of your professional values and why you went into private practice, your passion for helping patients will be felt by your staff members and patients alike, Gallagher writes on BetterPT.

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