November 15, 2018 | Doug Cundiff, MPT, MPH

3 Minute Read

Key Moves in Optimizing the Patient Treatment Episode

Now more than ever, we are faced with many challenges in healthcare, things such as MIPS, Pay for Performance, accountability for the entire continuum of care, and the need for further patient engagement. Challenges aside, rehab therapy is still one of the best options help the patient achieve the best outcome. We all know that rehab therapy is a conservative option for patients looking for a non-surgical solution for their clinical presentation, as well as being instrumental in many post-operative procedures. However, during the treatment episode, does the patient understand what the rehab therapist does, and perhaps more importantly, how involved the patient needs to be in setting goals and creating their plan of care?  These questions cannot only impact the patient’s outcomes, but it can also impact the clinic/practice’s revenue and performance.

I invite you to watch the video below, as I discuss key moves in optimizing the patient’s treatment episode for rehab therapy like status updates, reinforcement of the Home Exercise Program, and a patient-reported outcomes solution.


Learn how Net Health 360’s Rehab Therapy Professional Services can help you target, navigate and conquer complex business barriers here.     

View Video Transcript

Today more than ever, we’re faced with many challenges in healthcare. Things like MIPS and Pay for Performance, where we’re tasked with delivering value and that’s getting the best outcome at the lowest cost. And we’re going to need the outcomes and data to back that. We have to manage the episode and more than ever we’re accountable for the entire continuum of care now. And with payment models changing, we need to get more creative in the way we’re managing that patient episode.

And at the end of the day, we still want to become the obvious choice and destination for rehab therapy in your market. And so for those growth strategies, patient engagement is going to be paramount. Given all those challenges, rehab therapy can still help the patient get that best outcome. And so for the next few minutes, I’d like for you to think about these questions. We know that rehab therapy is a conservative option in the recovery of whatever ailment a patient may present with, or even postop, helping that patient get to that level of function they were prior to the reason for their surgery.

Do your patients understand first, what you do as a rehab therapist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech language pathologist? Do they understand what you do? Do your patients know what their role is in their recovery after you’ve done the evaluation and shared the plan of care? And speaking of plans of care, how involved are your patients in setting the goals when you’re creating that plan of care?

And then lastly, during the course of treatment, do your patients understand how they’re progressing and what’s next as you move them on week to week throughout your plan of care? Your answers not only impact the patient’s outcome, but it also impacts the revenue and the performance of your clinic or practice. So, when a patient presents to your clinic, let’s talk about some of the key moves in optimizing the patient’s treatment episode for rehab therapy.

First, we recommend strongly that you use a patient reported outcome solution. It’s a great way to hear from the patient firsthand before you even start your interview, your past medical history discussion. And we recommend Foto. It’s the largest database with over 20 million patient surveys. It takes into account any risks factors that could impact their outcome that’s risk adjusted. And it’s also patient and therapist friendly. It only takes five to seven minutes to complete and it provides a lot of valuable information.

Plus the patients can really relate to the results of the survey. The survey predicts the change that the patient can expect by completing and being compliant with the course of therapy. It shares with them patients with similar clinical presentations, similar risk factors, what results, what outcome to expect. It will tell you how many visits it may take to get there and over what course of time.

And when you’re working with the patients closely, you’re setting goals that are important to the patient, patients will invest in things that are important to them. And with all the challenges that we have in healthcare with copays, higher deductibles, it’s going to be important that you’re in this together, the patients understand that if I do what we agree to do throughout this course of treatment, that I can get that outcome and this investment will be worth it.

We also recommend that using that patient reported outcome solution, that every fourth or fifth visit, you do a status update. For the therapist, let’s understand how effective is your plan of care. Are you moving the patient along in a timely fashion? It also allows you the opportunity to present to the patient, “Look where you are now. Look how far you’ve come since we first gotten started, and this is where we’re going to go the next four or five visits.”

Keeping the patient involved and in the loop on how they’re progressing along gives them that reinforcement that this is having a positive impact, or not, and we’re going to make these adjustments. And then this is where we’re going to go over the next four to five visits.

Additional key moves that we recommend deploying to optimize that patient episode is leveraging your appointment reminder system. We have an automated system where for new evaluations, a patient will receive a phone call two days in advance reminding them of the appointment and how early to arrive prior to the beginning of the evaluation. For subsequent visits, we send text reminders one day in advance, again, to remind them of the upcoming appointment. And we all know that strong patient attendance will also support achieving that best patient outcome.

Also, don’t forget to reinforce the importance of the home exercise program. This is all about shared accountability, but we only see them two or three times a week. What the patient does two or three times a day between the visits is going to have that positive impact and we like using a home exercise program where we can email the home exercise program to the patient. If we learned that they’re having challenges with any exercises between visits, we can make the updates, email them an updated home exercise program, and we can even email it to a friend or family member who might be helping them through that exercise program. So, reinforcement of the home exercise program is going to be important as well.

Lastly, we understand the challenges of managing a busy caseload. How do you know if any of your patients are at risk of self discharge? Even the most disciplined therapists can lose track on some of their patients if they’ve fallen off the schedule. A patient can go on vacation, a three-day holiday weekend, the therapist goes on vacation, keeping track of those full schedules can be a challenge.

So in ReDoc, we pay attention to the business intelligence dashboard where we have a treatment and activity chart. It allows us to see what patients have not been documented on, therefore not seen, in the last seven days, 10 days, 14 days. You get to set the parameters that make most sense to you, and as rehab therapy leaders, it’s important to understand your patient demographics, to share those results with a therapist in your clinic, and have the conversation, “Does this patient attendance make sense or not?”

And if that patient needs to be back in the clinic, let’s get a phone call out to the patient. Let’s talk about what’s going to happen during the next visit. Let’s update their home exercise program if we need to. In a worst case, if we’re done seeing the patient, let’s get that last outcome survey so that we can have the beginning and end results of their episode of care.

So, let’s recap some of those keys for success. First we need early buy-in and education of the therapist on why this is important. Make sure your patients understand what to expect by attending rehab therapy. Do they know what you do as a therapist? And educate the patient on the value of attending and what their role is in their own recovery. Make sure your patients know the improvement they’ve made and what’s next and support patient attendance with an appointment reminder system monitoring that treatment and activity.

Internally, don’t forget to share the results frequently and in a meaningful way. And when it makes sense, consider setting clinic goals or individual goals that you include in performance reviews. If you follow these keys for success, we’re sure you’re going to optimize that episode in rehab therapy.

Share this post

Subscribe and See More