How Physical Therapists Can Demonstrate More Value in 2018

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Six tips to maximize your worth to patients

Value: it’s a word that’s small in length, but great in its impact on the healthcare industry.

But although the shift toward value-based care is well underway, many physical therapy practices are struggling with new challenges, such as entering integrated-care relationships, and improving quality and efficiency while regulations like the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) and Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) take hold.

The struggle of PTs, however, isn’t solely due to these outside circumstances. Many PTs simply aren’t doing enough to demonstrate the value they offer in an evolving, value-based industry that emphasizes care coordination.

As PTs begin to embrace care coordination by joining accountable care organizations or similar health networks, it’s important for them to prove their worth to their care partners as well as patients.

Therefore, PTs who demonstrate more value to patients and partners will experience higher patient satisfaction and retention, improve efficiencies, and strengthen their relationship with outside providers.

In becoming part of integrated-care partnerships, PT providers should consider the following six best practices.

Review Existing Technology

One of the basic ways healthcare providers can best align with the industry’s shift toward value-based care is to ensure their technology allows them to do so. Unfortunately, PTs, occupational therapists (OTs) and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) aren’t eligible to participate in MIPS until at least 2019.

This does provide them with a window of opportunity to prepare for MIPS, however, and review their current technology.
Here are some considerations when reviewing current technology to ensure it’s able to handle the shift to value-based care:

  • Is it physical-therapy specific? Software that is tailored specifically to physical therapists will only help them deliver care more effectively and efficiently. Pre-loaded physical therapy content from actual PT providers as well as tailored workflows are highly effective in helping users chart with speed and accuracy.
  • What is the delivery of the software? Software delivery affects the value of the technology, especially for healthcare providers. Cloud-based software provides users with the most flexibility and empowers PT providers to be more efficient with the ability to chart from any location, at any time, on any device.

Physical therapy technology should also enable PT providers to easily coordinate care with other providers, and also collect the data needed for optimal reimbursement.

These characteristics will help PTs properly evaluate whether their current technology is robust enough to handle the shift to value-based care.

Improve Relationships with Outside Providers

In order to work well with providers, PTs must ensure relationships are maintained, or else coordinated care will be difficult to achieve.
For example, the current opioid crisis has presented collaboration opportunities with primary-care physicians (PCPs) because PTs can provide patients with alternatives to opioids and expensive interventions. Unfortunately, a common fear for PCPs is losing the ability to track patients.

Physical therapists that regularly communicate with PCP partners about a commitment to improving access to information (i.e. using an interoperable EHR) will help ease those hesitations.

Tap Into Mobile

Mobile devices are changing the way consumers do things, from banking to booking appointments. Likewise, mobile devices are playing a bigger role in healthcare.

A 2016 survey discovered that nearly half of consumers between the ages of 18-34 have used mobile devices for their healthcare needs, such as looking up information on an app or connecting to a healthcare provider.1

Embracing mobile devices in the delivery of care opens more opportunities for PT practices to meet patients where they are and expand their presences and reputations. Mobile devices streamline communication by offering faster, easier access to a secure patient portal for better provider/patient communication, convenient scheduling, prescription refills, and more.

They can also enhance on-site care. For example, the Muscle & Bone Anatomy 3D app shows patients the human musculoskeletal system. A PT can use an app like this to enhance care, offering patients a greater understanding of their issue(s) through visual aids.

Re-evaluate Vendor Partners

The move toward value-based, or pay-for-performance, care models for PT practices underscores the importance of working with vendor partners that are flexible and able to keep up with changing regulations. Not only will partnering with these types of vendors better position PT practices for greater success, but they will also help PTs better coordinate care.

Improve Pricing Transparency

Patients are taking on greater responsibility for their healthcare costs, and consequently, paying closer attention to what their payers cover. Transparent pricing and coverage information will help quell potential financial hesitations from patients regarding a particular PT practice’s services.

Monitor Online Reviews

Online reviews are more influential than ever and used by a growing number of patients. BrightLocal’s 2017 Consumer Survey discovered that healthcare providers represented 33 percent of online reviews left by consumers (third highest among online reviews)2. Furthermore, 72 percent of patients use online reviews as a first step in finding a new doctor, so online reputation is often the first impression for many patients.

Proactive approaches to online reviews by the practice helps to address potential patient concerns and cultivate a more positive online reputation that could pay long-term dividends.

Physical therapists need the right tools to support the transition to move away from fee-for-service toward integrated-care models. By considering ways to offer more value to patients, PTs will have an easier time moving forward.


References

  1. Accenture: “Accenture 2016 Consumer Survey on Patient Engagement
  2. BrightLocal: “BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey
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About Author

Charles Hutchinson

Charles Hutchinson is a financial and regulatory healthcare expert who serves as the chief financial officer of InSync, a technology solutions provider that makes specialty EHRs for physical therapy practices.

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