October 14, 2022 | Doug Cundiff, MPT, MPH

4 min read

Outpatient Rehab Therapy: More Than Just an Ancillary Hospital Service

By Doug Cundiff, MPT, MPH
VP of Hospital Therapy Solutions, Net Health

As the healthcare market continues to evolve toward providing more options for patients to access care and procedures outside hospital systems,1 healthcare consumers might find they have fewer reasons to step foot in a hospital.

During a challenging stretch when hospitals are already facing staffing shortages, rising inflation and ballooning expenses, the prospect of contending with added competition may seem less than ideal.

Yet, as hospital directors and administrators work to squeeze additional productivity from its staff while searching for supplementary sources of revenue, there’s one stone I suggest they don’t leave unturned: their rehab therapy departments.

See, while some hospitals tend to view rehab therapy as a single cost center, your outpatient rehab therapy department – when equipped and utilized correctly – can serve as an invaluable entry point to hospital services.

And, by providing rehab evaluations and treatments while connecting patients to a wider array of hospital services that support continuum of care, outpatient rehab therapy can serve as an important center for revenue and growth.

The Revenue Potential of Outpatient Rehab Therapy

Unfortunately, too many hospital leadership teams today evaluate acute and outpatient rehab therapy as a single ancillary service, department or line item titled something along the lines of “rehab services.”

In doing so, the revenue potential of outpatient rehab therapy is inadvertently offset by the costs associated with acute care, a segment that operates lean based on goals that are quite different from outpatient services.

It’s only when we purposefully separate the two that we might begin to view outpatient rehab therapy as a revenue source. This is also when leaders may start to see these services as a conduit through which the hospital and its services can more directly connect with your community and its people.

What might this look like? Optimized hospital outpatient rehab therapy services offer the potential to:

Directly Generate Revenue

By simply providing care to patients, outpatient rehab therapy teams are able to generate direct revenue for the hospital. And, they do so by providing more conservative and less invasive types of interventions – healthcare services that may not normally be associated with the hospital.

In this way, outpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy can combine to provide a new line of hospital services that had not previously existed.

Develop a Strong Referral Network

Many patients who seek rehab therapy through your hospital’s outpatient clinic will certainly respond positively to treatments for pain and injury. But, some may benefit from additional hospital services and interventions.

In these cases, your outpatient rehab therapy team is ideally positioned to serve as a reliable referral network for other medical services your hospital provides. For example, therapists may feed referrals to areas such as testing/imaging, neurology, orthopedic surgery, and so on.

Connect with Your Community

Outpatient therapy can also serve as part of an outreach effort by the hospital. Part of this is simply marketing rehab therapy as an entry point for high-quality care under the umbrella of a well-known and trusted healthcare brand, but it can be much more than this.

Compared with other services, it’s relatively simple to expand rehab therapy services into areas and communities your medical community may identify is underserved by your hospital. This not only contributes to the welfare of people in these areas, but it can connect your hospital with new markets.

Help Your Rehab Therapy Team Reach Its Fullest Potential

Of course, for an outpatient rehab therapy department to reach its fullest potential means teams must be equipped with tools that enable them to grow and thrive. This includes having a therapy-based EHR system in place that supports all aspects of an evolving outpatient therapy operation.

It’s critical such a system includes:

  • A rehab therapy-specific scheduler
  • Documentation solutions that flow the way rehab therapists evaluate and treat patients
  • Billing that seamlessly captures all services and reports them to the financial department
  • Real-time reporting with actionable insights
  • A way of tracking and comparing patient outcomes in-house and across the industry
  • Patient engagement optimization and marketing

All of this and more is available through our Net Health® ReDoc – Outpatient EHR solution.

To learn more about the value of such a solution and how it can help your outpatient rehab therapy team into a true revenue source for your hospital, reach out to me any time. Or, please feel free to contact us to schedule a demo of our EHR software.

How Avera Health Simplified Its Path to Success in Hospital Outpatient Therapy

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Healthcare Finance, “Ambulatory Surgery Centers Compete with Hospitals for Outpatient Dollars,” Aug. 17, 2022

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