A strong therapeutic alliance is built on a foundation of honest, data-driven communication. In the field of physical therapy, open conversations that focus on each party’s goals of treatment, methodology for treatment, and trust in one another’s commitment to treatment are necessary to establish an alliance. Rehab therapy outcomes rely on these conversations, as does patient engagement.
Though it’s certainly no easy task to build a therapeutic alliance, communication is absolutely the place to start. Take a look at four conversations that are a sign of a strong therapeutic alliance between a patient and a provider, and how clinics can initiate these discussions to build patient trust.
1. Agreement on Treatment Duration
There’s nothing worse than outlining a 15-week episode of care for a new patient, just for them to no-call, no-show for their next four appointments. This is why a therapeutic alliance should begin at intake—and why agreement on treatment duration should be the first conversation you have to forge a partnership with a new patient. To increase trust in the process, always lead with data.
Leverage a functional outcome system, such as FOTO Patient Outcomes, to weigh a patient’s initial assessment of functional status against patients with similar traits. This will provide an estimate of how many treatment sessions are necessary to reach optimal improvement. With this data in hand, providers can begin an honest and informed conversation that culminates in the agreement of treatment duration.
2. Discussion of Functional Progression
Though a patient and provider may agree to treatment duration at intake, that’s not to say that this agreement won’t fall through the cracks as therapy progresses. Life happens, and oftentimes, other responsibilities take away from patient engagement. Data-driven updates about how a patient is progressing compared to the expectations established at intake can serve as a friendly wake-up call.
With the help of functional outcome tools, providers can explain, “This is where you are now, this is where you want to be, and this is how we agreed we would get there.” By positioning rehab therapy patient outcomes as a partnership that a patient must also contribute to, providers can reinforce a strong therapeutic alliance and beneficially shift the patient’s perception of therapy.
3. Attitude on Treatment Effectiveness
A strong therapeutic alliance is forged when both a patient and a provider agree to the goals and tasks of treatment. While a provider may need to reinforce the treatment timeline as therapy progresses, a patient may also need to revise the terms of their treatment as they heal. For optimal therapy outcome management, a provider must be open to a patient’s needs and values.
For instance, conflicts with appointment schedules or a preference for telehealth therapy may occur throughout treatment. Honest conversations between a patient and a provider give each party a chance to voice their concerns for moving forward with a care plan and allow a provider to modify appointment schedules or exercise prescriptions to better meet the needs of the client.
4. Alignment on Discharge Timeline
Functional outcome tools may provide a statistically reliable and valid estimate for treatment duration, however, it’s up to a provider to skillfully use the outcomes data as part of comprehensive clinical decision-making. Not to mention, the patient’s values and perception of functional improvement is a main focus of patient-centered care; the patient might perceive their functional improvement is “good enough” at a pace that could differ from the provider’s judgement.
A sure sign of a strong therapeutic alliance is the ability for each patient to have an open conversation with their therapist, rather than making care decisions in isolation. This encourages ongoing communication that’s rooted in measurable, patient-reported outcomes, so it’s more likely that the decision to discharge will be mutually agreed upon and with room for discharge planning.
5. Data-Driven Conversations You Should Have
It’s no easy task to establish a therapeutic alliance, but providers can start with the foundation of it all— data-driven communication. Learn how to build and maintain a strong therapeutic alliance for an entire episode of care in the newest e-book from Net Health. From intake to discharge and every session in between, discover how to initiate and sustain a beneficial partnership with patients today.
How to Build and Maintain a Strong Therapeutic Alliance for an Entire Episode of Care
Establish Shared Goals from Intake to Discharge