As value-based care and quality payment programs gather steam, a lot of physical therapists are asking the same question: When reimbursement for services is tied to patient outcomes, what are the best strategies to follow for success?
While the answer obviously includes all kinds of things, from interdisciplinary collaboration to continuing education on evolving best practices, a growing number of PT clinics are finding that one approach outweighs the rest. The key, they say, is to focus on patient engagement—to help clients become accountable for their own health.
“Patient engagement is a two-way street,” says Mike Fox, PT, SCS, chief clinical officer with MOTION PT Group. “It’s both sides—patient and provider—working together for better outcomes.”
Here are five reasons (but to be honest, there are many more) your patient engagement and outcomes strategies should go hand in hand.
Patient engagement makes physical therapy more effective.
The more that patients become involved in their own care, the more invested they become in improving their health. Patient engagement in the clinic entails including them in the care-decision-making process. When you talk to your patient about what they hope to accomplish, and then agree as a team on a realistic care plan, you show them that their participation is valued—and also that they’ll need to help pull their own weight.
Patient engagement extends care beyond the clinic walls.
It’s no longer the case that when a patient goes out the door you can only hope that they follow their home exercise program. Today, with an array of text-messaging tools and patient-friendly mobile apps, PTs can reach their clients wherever they are to track their progress and offer remote assistance as needed. With a nudge here and there, via video or chat, you can almost guarantee your patient will do better than they would had they only received feedback in the clinic.
Patient engagement can help patients stay healthy.
Fox says the therapists at MOTION try to stay in touch with their patients even after they’ve wrapped up treatment. “By communicating through technology,” he notes, “we can help prevent injuries and maybe even prevent the next episode of care from happening.” In value-based programs that level of communication and goal can help incentivize providers for maintaining population health and reducing readmissions.
Patient engagement improves patient satisfaction—a key performance factor in programs like MIPS.
All else being equal, the more time you can devote to each patient, the more satisfied they’re going to be with their care. Luckily for physical therapists, most aren’t as rushed as other providers are, but many still wish they had the freedom to give their patients more face-to-face attention. While the digital tools of patient engagement can never replace one-on-one time in the clinic, they can improve the connections you make with clients—and hopefully leave them happier with their care experience.
Strong engagement gets patients in the clinic sooner, and it helps create “patients for life.”
When your patient views you as a partner, they won’t hesitate to reach out and schedule an appointment whenever it seems there could be something wrong. If you’re in a state with unrestricted direct access, this means they’ll get to you sooner because they can do so on their own accord. If not, they’ll seek a quick referral—hopefully from a physician you’ve worked with before.
The bottom line is, with strong patient engagement, you’ll see patients earlier, when you can make the biggest difference. Your patients, meanwhile, will see you for what you are: A healthcare provider offering something of real value—high-quality care at a reasonable cost.