January 2, 2023

Strategies to Engage Patients in 2023

Keeping your patients engaged is important for so many reasons, from their well-being and recovery to your practice’s productivity and profit. 

But it’s not so easy, especially with shifting consumer expectations, emerging technologies, and the fight for attention. As you prepare your PT clinic for 2023, ask yourself: What’s missing from your PT clinic patient engagement strategy? 

How to engage your physical therapy clinic's patients

Engaged patients can mean the difference between referrals and empty schedules, successful patient outcomes, Home Exercise Program (HEP) compliance, and happy customers. 

Whether you realize it or not, how, where, and when you engage with your patients can take your practice to the next level, or keep it stuck where it’s at now. Let’s cover some patient engagement best practices, and how you can drive better outcomes. 

1. Use one-way SMS and patient portal messaging 

In 2022, 85% of consumers reported that they prefer receiving text messages over a phone call or email. And with an average open rate of 98%, it seems to hit the spot for both businesses and their customers. 

If you’re not already, your clinic needs to meet your customers where they’re already communicating: SMS. 

Instead of using SMS as your main communication channel, you should use it as the jumping-off point and drive patents into the portal. With one-way, automated SMS, you can: 

  • Remind patients about upcoming appointments, confirmations, and scheduling updates
  • Let patients know when they have unread messages and notifications in the patient portal
  • Prompt patients for post-appointment feedback and follow-up surveys
  • Drive HEP compliance with check-ins and performance updates
  • Share payment confirmations and receipts

Using one-way SMS to communicate with patients will help keep them informed, up-to-date, and actively engaged with your health plans. 

Is SMS texting HIPAA compliant?

For physical therapist clinics, SMS seems like a no-brainer. Still, sharing confidential patient information over text can seem like a risk. Texting patients shouldn’t violate HIPAA, but it all depends on your SMS provider. 

In addition, the HIPAA Journal claims that: 

“While HIPAA does not specifically prohibit sending PHI by text, in order for texting to be HIPAA compliant, texting safeguards have to be in place to ensure the confidentiality of PHI when it is at rest and in transit. There also have to be controls in place for who can access PHI, and what authorized personnel do with PHI when they access it.”

Sharing PHI via SMS at your clinic

Texting patient information to patients is allowed by HIPAA as long as: 

  1. Your clinic has informed consent from patients to communicate by text. Both the warning and the consent must be documented. 
  2. You’ve implemented a HIPAA-compliant messaging or practice management solution with the necessary controls and encryption to support HIPAA compliant texting. 

Note: Even when these apps are used, it is still necessary to comply with the Minimum Necessary Standard and the physical, technical, and administrative safeguards of the HIPAA Security Rule.

To maintain HIPAA compliance, make sure that you’re not directly texting patients' protected health information (PHI). However you use texting in your clinic’s patient engagement strategy, this channel should be a jumping-off point. Use SMS to drive patients to your portal and access HEP, activity logs, and other resources you’ve prepared for them. 

2. Implement a patient-feedback loop

Patients may not be 100% satisfied with their visits, whether it’s due to timing, expectation setting, or anything in between. 

Post-appointment, regularly scheduled sentiment and satisfaction check-ins are SO important for both your clinic and patients because it makes your patients feel heard, provide a less direct way to offer feedback, and give PT clinic owners and practitioners insight into where you can be better. 

To achieve this, you can automate SMS alerts asking patients about their most recent visit, or use SMS to drive patients to their portal, and leave feedback there. Set up patient satisfaction surveys, add questions to the outtake process, and set clear expectations before you begin working with patients. 

Making it easy for patients to voice their concerns can improve a poor experience, help retain patients as loyal clients, and give you actionable direction into where you’re improving (and understand what you’re already doing great). 

Don’t just ask for feedback. Act on it, too.

It’s not just enough to ask for patient information—you also need to document this. Keep customer sentiment responses organized in your practice management system so you can develop an actionable strategy that translates their input into an improvement plan for your internal processes and operations.

Don’t focus on performance and outcomes more than you listen to your patients. Metrics may not always provide the most important feedback and can negate their voices during care decisions.

3. Follow up post-appointments

If you’re not keeping patients engaged after their visits, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity. Post-appointment follow-up is another way to strengthen relationships with your clientele, improve HEP compliance, and improve transparency. 

Sending promised materials, timely reminders, and helpful advice makes patients feel valued—and more likely to return and make referrals. Follow up post-appointment with email, one-way SMS, or portal messaging (or all three). 

Provide education frequently and accurately

There’s a direct correlation between patient satisfaction and the value patients feel that they’re getting from visits. Unfortunately, many PT clinics miss this step of patient engagement due to inconsistent, misaligned, or outdated patient education programs.

As a PT, you can improve the perceived value of your HEP and in-person care by taking the time to educate by offering: 

  • Educational documentation and collateral
  • At-home guidance
  • Follow-up emails
  • Answers to questions during visits

Tip: With PtEverywhere, clinics can use HEP to monitor if the patient is doing their exercises between appointments. If they don't, the chance they cancel their next appointment is higher. To avoid this, reach out to patients via the portal to motivate them, check in on progress, and provide pointers. 

4. Provide a value-packed, intuitive patient portal

The above tips are critical to your patient engagement, but not possible without one thing: a user-friendly patient portal. 

Your physical therapy practice management solution should give your patients an easy way to access their Home Exercise Programs, activity logs, HIPAA-compliant messaging, and other resources. 

Whether you’re using your PT practice management solution to make their lives easier, not more complicated. With an intuitive patient portal, PTs can communicate about scheduling, share resources, update appointment scheduling, chat via telehealth, make payments, and more via one unified platform. 

At the minimum, your clinic’s physical therapy solution should include: 

  • Scheduling that shows both your and your patients’ availability
  • EMR and charting capabilities to minimize paperwork
  • A secure payment portal to make and view historical payments
  • Telehealth for remote care and monitoring
  • Access to HEP and workout tutorials
  • In-app messaging and automation

Engage your PT clinic patients anywhere, any time 

Keeping your patients happy and engaged is a challenge, and using patient portal messaging and one-way SMS should be a routine part of your clinic’s communications strategy. 

With an all-in-one physical therapy practice management software like PtEverywhere, you can connect with your patients anywhere in the world, remind them of appointments via email and texts, and offer an intuitive, unified portal to access HEP. 

To learn more about keeping your patients engaged, book a demo.