Whether growth is measured strictly with dollar signs or the patient population served, physical therapists with specialization can help a private practice clinic achieve its growth goals. Before diving into the “how,” let’s take a look at what specializations may be most relevant for an outpatient clinic.
There are a few main ways therapists can be considered specialized. Some are not hard to miss with the additional letters or titles after the therapist’s name. Others are more subtle, such as through additional continuing education. Some continuing education may lead to a certification, but others just provide therapists with more know-how and confidence to practice in a specific area or with a new treatment technique. On the other hand, if a therapist opts to gain more knowledge in a specific area, such as vestibular rehab or running/gait analysis for instance, they can take continuing education courses but are not locked into sitting for a particular certifying exam.
At the far end of the spectrum of certifications is The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS). They currently list 10 physical therapy specialties that come with a lengthy bit of studying and a certifying exam to become known as a subject matter expert. These board-certified clinical specialist designations include the following areas (in order of most to potentially least relevant to an outpatient clinic): Orthopedics, Sports, Women’s Health, Pediatrics, Geriatrics, Neurology, Oncology, Cardiovascular and Pulmonary, Clinical Electrophysiology, and Wound Management.
It is important to consider the various specialties and how supporting and hiring more specialized staff would align with the clinic’s long- and short-term goals. Here are just three ways physical therapy specialties could positively impact growth.
1. Demonstrate Clinical Expertise
Employing therapists that hold a desired board certification, or pursue other specific clinical expertise while working at your practice, can help drive clinic growth. These designations set therapists apart by demonstrating their expertise in a certain area. As people become savvy consumers of their health care, potential patients may be likely to schedule with a therapist known to be a specialist. In addition, high-deductible plans are becoming more and more popular. With such high deductibles, patients want to find the best possible practitioner for their particular problem.
2. Provide Additional Referrals
Once specialized clinical staff are up and running at a clinic, it’s time to let new and existing referral sources know. Not only will physicians and other health professionals be eager to refer their patients to the clinic, but patient word of mouth is also a strong advertiser. Patients will be providing another source of referrals to the clinic for these specialties.
New specialties can also mean new referral streams. For instance, in most markets, pelvic health physical therapists are still in short supply but in high demand. Providing education to referral sources about the benefits of pelvic floor PT both before, during, and after pregnancy, for instance, will improve clinic traffic for this specialty. In addition, education about the benefits to all people who may have concerns with incontinence and/or pain will also increase patient growth. Clinics may even see an increase in self-referrals for people with a high deductible plan who want to spend their hard-earned dollars on the best physical therapy for their money.
3. Utilize Higher Reimbursement Rates
It would be remiss not to mention the higher reimbursement rates associated with the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes used by some of these specialties. For instance, as of June 2023, the CPT codes typically associated with pelvic floor PT (biofeedback training 90912 and 90913) have a national rate of $81.33 for the first 15 minutes and $32.53 for each additional 15 minutes, respectively. And as part of vestibular rehab, the canalith repositioning maneuver (95992) is $43.71. These specific CPT codes allow therapists who utilize these treatments to bill for their services in addition to the other physical therapy codes more commonly used.
No matter your clinic’s focus areas, accurate billing is a critical part of running a successful business and avoiding potential issues. Utilizing Prompt’s billing platform will ensure the clinic receives the highest reimbursement rates and sends the most accurate bills to reflect the services performed by clinical specialists.
Overall, adding to a physical therapy practice’s diversity will help improve clinic growth. Don’t just rely on post-surgical patients for rehab potential. Find the interest of existing clinicians and support them to increase growth. As they say in finance, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” This isn’t to say it makes sense for every clinic to offer some of everything, but maybe adding a couple of new areas of expertise does. Clinic goals and clinician talents should be analyzed in order to determine what strategy works best for each practice.
About the author:
Chelsea Krotser is an outpatient orthopedic physical therapist and freelance writer. Drawing on her experience as a PT as well as her former life as an accountant, she is dedicated to providing an insightful clinical and business perspective. She loves writing about all things related to physical therapy. You can find her on Instagram @chelseakrotser.