The rehab therapy industry hinges on a strong therapeutic alliance between a patient and therapist. Forged through collaboration, communication, mutual trust, and respect, the therapeutic alliance truly has three main components — goals, tasks, and the patient-therapist bond. Optimal therapeutic alliance occurs when a patient and his or her therapist share one vision for the goals of treatment, agree on how they’re going to get there, and view one another as holding their best interests at heart.
A recent study by Focus on Therapeutic Outcomes (FOTO) sought to quantify just how much the therapeutic alliance impacts patient outcomes at rehabilitation discharge. They observed significant correlations between therapeutic alliance scores and the amount of functional improvement. Based on the study’s results, it’s reasonable to speculate over whether the therapeutic alliance can also improve clinic revenue.
Watch the webinar: Is Therapeutic Alliance Predictive of Functional Outcomes?
What a Therapeutic Alliance Means for Revenue
Strengthening the patient-therapist relationship during the episode of care may result in not only better patient functional outcomes but also enhance patient treatment compliance and happier patients, providers, and payers which may directly impact revenue by decreasing no-shows, drop-outs and cancellation rates.
Consider this example of how a typical small clinic practice could suffer from not establishing a strong therapeutic alliance with their patients:
- A physical therapy clinic schedules 5,000 visits per year
- The clinic has a cancel or no-show rate of 15%
- 20% of the clinic’s new patients drop-off after 5 visits of a 9-visit plan of care
- The clinic has an average revenue per visit of $100
With a current revenue of $100 per visit, the clinic loses $75,000 to the 15% of appointments that cancel or no-show and $55,556 for the patients who drop-off mid-way through treatment. This totals to a whopping $130,556 lost per year to cancellations, no-shows, and drop-outs — a reduction of 26% margin! Now let’s consider how a strong therapeutic alliance could help improve practice revenue.
With a strong therapeutic alliance, patients are in agreement with their therapists‘ plan of care, including visit frequency and treatments prescribed. Patients believe that their physical therapist have their best interests at heart, so they attend each appointment and complete treatment.
If the therapeutic alliance could reduce cancellations, no-shows, and drop-outs by just 20%, the clinic could earn an additional $26,111 in revenue — at no additional cost.
How to Improve the Therapeutic Alliance with Patients
Though physical therapists often acknowledge the positive therapeutic effects of empathy, effective communication, and hands-on care, many forget how the therapeutic alliance can improve functional outcomes — and subsequently, clinic revenue. In the recent FOTO study, key factors identified to improve the therapeutic alliance included therapists’ interpersonal and communication skills, individualized patient-centered care, and organizational factors such as time and flexible scheduling.
Fortunately, all of the above are modifiable with training and attention. Consider these four tips to improve patient-centered communication and care, and forge a stronger therapeutic alliance with patients.
- Establish a Patient Pledge: Therapeutic alliance relies on an agreement between both the patient and the therapist, so a first step to developing a strong therapeutic alliance may include signing a pledge between parties to agree on treatment plan of care.
- Provide Multiple Channels of Communication: Since an alliance is built on a foundation of trust and communication, keeping multiple communication channels open such as a patient portal, email newsletters, and text alerts may be beneficial.
- Build a Positive Rapport Clinic-Wide: The patient-provider bond is an essential aspect of the therapeutic alliance, so encourage staff to maintain a positive, helpful demeanor and treat each patient as an individual.
- Practice Mutual Respect: Respect for people’s time and money goes both ways, so strive to show patients mutual respect by attending their visits on time, answering their questions kindly, and working with their schedule when planning appointments. You may consider telehealth solutions to give your patients treatment options that work within their schedules.
Foster Better Functional Outcomes and Forge a Therapeutic Alliance
Now more than ever, it’s clear that the therapeutic alliance is not only a significant contribution to explaining a patient’s functional outcome at rehabilitation discharge but also may enhance overall clinic revenue. Fortunately, it’s not too late to adopt functional outcome tools that account for the engagement efforts you put forth with patients. Discover how FOTO physical therapy can help set goals for treatment, identify necessary patient tasks, and forge a bond between patient and therapist to lead to a strong therapeutic alliance and increased revenue.
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