As practices around the country begin to get back to business as usual, there is a lot of talk about new procedures, new patterns of communication and caregiving, new schedules and systems. If you’re like me, you’re probably already sick of hearing about the “new normal.”
So, let’s talk about fundamentals. As we begin to look to the future of what we want for our practice, the core foundations of your practice are more important than ever.
The coronavirus pandemic has left an indelible stamp on the way we live our lives and run our practices. And it’s far from over. Sure, it’s already become a cliché to talk about the “new normal.” But the truth is, the old normal is gone.
Returning to the old ways of running your business means picking up obsolete strategies that leave your practice vulnerable to the next wave of Covid-19 cases in your area, the next pandemic, the next unforeseen upheaval we can’t foresee.
It’s time to think differently about the foundational aspects of your business. The most important area you need to focus on to survive is new patients. Not much else matters if you don’t have new people coming through your doors, whether virtual or the brick and mortar kind.
As you begin to ramp up productivity, you’ll be tempted to take any and all patients who come your way. I’m here to urge you to do something that’s going to sound strange, a little scary, and pretty counterintuitive:
BE SELECTIVE with the patients you seek out, and those you add to your schedule.
I told you it might sound strange, especially in this moment of vulnerability. But hear me out. Because now is exactly the time to start being selective about the patients you really want to treat. In fact, targeting your ideal patient is one of the most powerful ways to pandemic-proof your practice from here on out.
Before I explain why, here’s a quick story. And as you may have guessed, I’ve been working hard to help PT private practice owners to accelerate their growth. In one instance, I got some PTs so riled up that I felt they wanted to punch me in the face. Luckily, they didn’t. And luckily for them, they listened to why I suggested to not let some patients through their doors.
Targeting Your Ideal Patient
What does it mean to target your ideal patient? It starts with knowing these two things:
- Know exactly what problem you solve. Are you a general physical therapist? Or are you a physical therapist who helps active adults return to the sports and activities they love? Be clear on your messaging. Be clear on how you and your business shows up in the world. The clearer your message is, the easier it is for people to understand and decide whether or not to set up an appointment.
- Know precisely what qualities you most value in the people you treat. Are you genuinely open to working with any patient? Or do you most WANT to treat patients who have a positive attitude? Are optimistic about treatment and their future health? Are willing to engage as active partners in their therapy?
There are a whole set of strategies that get you through the HOW of identifying and reaching your target audience, from communicating with past patients to identifying best referral partners, to exploring different models of care delivery, including virtual and mobile.
Understanding the WHY
But before you get to the HOW, you need to understand the WHY. Here are three essential reasons to be selective about your patients:
- Specialization. Think of it this way. If you had a back problem, would you go to a physician who offered their services as a generic “specialist”? Or would you go to a back specialist? Right, me too. Becoming specialized doesn’t keep patients away. It brings them to you. PT problems aren’t going away in this pandemic, or the next. But even more than “before,” patients will be seeking exactly the care they need. That’s where the too-general practice can’t compete with a practice that is clear about what they do.
- Remarkability. Your work to determine your target audience is the answer to the question: what sets you apart? Why should a patient choose you and not the practice across the city? In essence, what makes you remarkable? Your expertise and your passion, clearly defined and articulated, delivered consistently and seamlessly to patients through every point of care – that’s what makes you different. With new models of care emerging and telehealth suddenly a common practice, your remarkability is more important than ever.
- Authenticity. We all crave a sense of connection, especially these days. Patients want to be seen and understood. They also want to know their physical therapy provider, and they want to believe in their physical therapist’s dedication and commitment to solving their problem. You can’t fake this one. You’ve either got it or you don’t. Building a business around your ideal patient is a deeply authentic way to work – and a powerful attractor of the very people you’re seeking to help.
Taking this step might feel a bit strange, like you’re walking away from the patients you need right now. You’re not. You’re walking towards them.
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