The ROI of Relationship Management in Physical Therapy

At Strive Labs, our goal is to assist you in creating and retaining loyal customers through Patient Relationship Management (PRM). We’ve talked about several aspects of PRM on the blog over the past year; we discussed the use of tools such as the NPS® to collect data and drive better business principles, we described the importance of patient retention and ways to improve those metrics, we focused on patient engagement, we encouraged providers to remember that patients are people with goals and wants (as well as needs), we demonstrated how physical therapists can play a vital role in population health management, and we covered some important evidence based business practices. And at this point, you may be thinking to yourself, “This all sounds great, but I don’t have the money or the time to think about PRM in the midst of trying to run a successful business! Show me the money!”

We hear you! And we have these discussions daily with folks just like you who inquire about the value of PRM. So we’re here to share the ROI of PRM!

At our core, Strive Labs is a Patient Relationship Management Platform built specifically for health & wellness companies. Through our blog and Tuesday Tips, we define Patient Relationship Management and provide some insight into how StriveHub can assist you with establishing and maintaining relationships with your clients. This article provides an in-depth look into the different aspects of the StriveHub Platform, and how each can be leveraged to grow your business and positively affect your bottom line.

First, let’s look at Patient Relationship Management and what it means. Managing patient/provider relationships is critical throughout the continuum of care in today’s healthcare environment. Due to expanding social technology, no person or organization is immune to reviews and comments about services rendered. Smart business owners understand that developing authentic relationships with loyal customers is vital. Healthcare has been behind the 8 ball in this regard – for decades, healthcare providers and organizations stuck their heads in the sand and pretended that they weren’t a business first. Healthcare has largely discounted the importance of customer service and relationship management; yet, with social media such as Yelp, Twitter and Facebook, everyone has a voice these days. And patients aren’t afraid to share their good (and bad) experiences online.

As this August 2015 article in HITECH Answers explains, we can no longer choose to ignore what people are saying about us when we aren’t in the room:

“As the Affordable Care Act expands coverage and high deductible health plans capture more money from consumer pockets, increasing numbers of patients focus on the quality of services received from providers. These services extend beyond patient care to encompass patient experience metrics that are easily judged by the average consumer including respectfulness exhibited by caregivers, pleasantness of facilities, and wait times. Patients with sub-par experiences often post negative comments on one or more social media platforms to express their dissatisfaction. These posts then form the building blocks for a provider’s online reputation.

As patients act more like consumers, provider organizations with poor reputations experience decreased utilization of services which hurts revenue. With margins small and competition increasing for patients, few organizations can afford a decline in patient visits. For providers to survive in this new era of healthcare consumerism, they must learn from the experiences of other industries such as retail and hospitality, and apply those basic approaches to managing their relationship with patient-consumers.”

The article goes on to explain that:

“For more than 60 years, employer-based healthcare insurance dominated the payment structure for the delivery of healthcare. With employees shielded from the actual costs of care, demand for services rose faster than inflation causing the cost of care to rise in lock-step. Only after healthcare costs started to impact the competitiveness of American businesses did employers begin to increasingly shift the cost burden of care from employers to employees.

The shifting cost burden is not the only major factor driving the importance of patient relationships. The disruption of the marketplace caused by the Affordable Care Act brought millions of additional patient-consumers into the marketplace. Provider organizations work to attract as many of these existing and new patient-consumers as possible to fill facilities and generate revenue. Providers now base their survival on making their connection to these patient-consumers “stick” the same way consumers exhibit loyalty to a particular restaurant, hair salon, or grocery store. Patient Relationship Management (PRM) represents a healthcare version of customer relationship management (CRM). CRM facilitates the interaction with current and future customers by leveraging information technology. It helps organize, automate and coordinate sales activities, and supports marketing customer service and technical support efforts"

Keeping this in mind, and before we dive in deeper to the ROI of PRM this month, it’s important to have a solid foundation on what PRM actually looks like.

What is Patient Relationship Management?

At Strive Labs, we outline PRM visually in the following way:


In physical therapy, as well as  other industries in health and wellness, there are two primary ways to grow your business:

1. Get more customers (for a standard physical therapy clinic this means increasing the number of new evaluations), or

2. Do a better job at keeping the customers you already have (improve patient retention during the course of care and keep patients in your system after discharge).

Because a clinic's revenue is a factor of the total number of patients treated multiplied by the average visits per patient, increasing new evals and managing patient retention are the two most basic variables for growing your clinic’s revenue. Patient Relationship Management (PRM) is a system that examines a patient’s entire journey through care, and helps shepherd them from new referral to raving fan, every time.

The end result of PRM is a patient evangelist; a loyal customer that loves your clinic and sings its praises to anyone that will listen. Every business has evangelists that progress through this process organically.  It should be your goal to put systems in place to make sure these steps happen with every single one of your customers.

This month, we are going to cover four areas where we believe that a PRM system can show great returns on investment: Automation, Retention, Generation and Reactivation. Starting with...

Creating Great Experiences


The customer’s journey starts right around their first visit (people like our friend Jerry Durham will argue that it starts long before then, but I digress).  These new referrals enter your business with a certain set of expectations, and it’s your job to meet or exceed those expectations.  The problem is however, the data suggests that these needs are not always met: in physical therapy, 30% of new referrals drop out of care within their first 3 visits, which translates to $150k in lost revenue for the average clinic every year.

Note: If you're curious about what your Patient Retention Rate is, and the amount of revenue you're leaving on the table due to patient churn, click here to download our free Patient Retention Rate Calculator

At this juncture, it is critical to get buy-in from your new referrals.   While many of you are providing a great experience, we are in an age where customers are expecting more.  In this stage, you can leverage all three aspects of the StriveHub Platform to sell the plan of care and facilitate early engagement.

Improving the Experience with StriveHub

We built StriveHub with the patient’s experience in mind. Often the patient’s experience starts with their exercise prescription. The management of a new patient’s experience begins with custom-designed care plan using StriveHub Prescribe. This video based home exercise prescription tool makes it simple for therapists to create custom home exercise programs for their patients in two minutes or less. Once they do, patients gain access to StriveHub Portal. The Portal breaks down barriers to communication, providing patients with continued access to their clinician between visits.

Building a bridge between the clinic and the home is critical, as the majority of a patient’s time is spent outside the Clinic.  But we know that most clinicians lack the time to reach out to patients over their first few visits to ensure things are running smoothly. That’s why we built StriveHub Reach. Automate the sending of welcome messages, check-ins, satisfaction surveys, and content relevant to a patient’s diagnosis automatically by leveraging StriveHub’s automated workflow features. Once you’ve identified your own secret formula for providing patients with an incredible initial experience, StriveHub enables you to set up simple, repeatable workflows to ensure every patient flows through this same pathway.


Retain Patients by Understanding Engagement

If you succeed in selling the plan of care to the customer, they will come back for their next couple of visits. At this time, and for the rest of care, it is your job to deliver upon your value proposition. If you don’t deliver the goods, and if you aren’t diligently keeping tabs on your customers, chances are many of your **current customers **will fall through the cracks.

The goal is get your patient to complete their entire course-of-care (i.e. a retained patient). While this may seem simple, retained patients are much more rare than we’d care to admit– our own analysis of 30,000 patients in outpatient physical therapy suggests that only 27% of patients fully complete their course of care. The 73% that fall out of care too soon are known as ‘Patient Churn’. Patient Churn is the opposite side of the Patient Retention equation, and practices should look to prevent it anywhere possible, for not only will high patient churn decrease clinic revenue, but often it will lead to poor patient outcomes.

Patients churn out of care for many reasons, but one common characteristic almost all churned patients possess, they fail to engage in the care process.  In short, engaged patients are retained patients. It’s as simple as that. One successful method of increasing patient retention is practicing what we call Proactive Engagement Monitoring. Proactive Engagement Monitoring means actively analyzing who is engaged with care, and who isn’t, before they stop coming back.

StriveHub provides clinicians and administrators with the tools they need to sustain patient engagement as well as the back-end analytics to understand who is failing to engage with care. From there, a clinic can run a swift intervention on those individuals at high risk of dropout to boost retention.

But perhaps most importantly, StriveHub gives you detailed analytics on the patient experience via an immersive Net Promoter Dashboard. This dashboard gives clinic administrators the ability to break down the patient experience along multiple axes (including by diagnosis, by primary physical therapist, and by location).

Note: If you want to start collecting NPS at your clinic today, click here to download our Free Net Promoter Calculator and Analyzer!


Leveraging Patient Evangelists

Within your retained patients lies a sub-segment of patients who, on top of coming back to your clinic the next time they need PT, are willing and able to direct their friends and family to your services. We call these raving fans your patient evangelists, and they are the key to driving patient-generated referrals and setting up a sustainable cycle or business growth.

At this stage, you’ve done most of the work; you’ve created evangelists by providing an engaging experience on top of objective results. Now, you need to identify who those evangelists are, and then make it easy for them to tell their social circle about how awesome you are.

Using StriveHub Reach, you can send simple satisfaction surveys to all patients, and utilize the results of the surveys to identify your evangelists. From there, it’s all about keeping evangelists in your system and building word-of-mouth networks that make it easy for them to share information about your clinic. At discharge, evangelists are automatically informed of your alternative service lines, encouraged to share their experience on review sites such as Google and Yelp, and can be enrolled in your Refer-a-Friend campaign. These automated processes provide a ROI through generation of referrals.

When a patient successfully completes their plan of care for that episode, we don’t want to end the relationship we have built! Staying in touch with patients and continuing to provide value are essential. One way that a solid PRM program helps you stay in touch with past patients is through reactivation campaigns. You can send relevant articles and information to your past patients (specific to demographics you set, such as age, diagnosis, sport) with a “click of the button” ability to contact your clinic for follow up care.

Interested in seeing what a good reactivation campaign looks like? Click here to download our DIY Reactivation Plan for a free checklist and reactivation email templates

Control the Process

The end goal is having as much control over the PRM process as possible. Once you have a process that reliably turns your new referrals into patient evangelists, the next step becomes replicating that process with every single one of your patients. If successful, you can create a repeatable process that breeds a sustainable cycle of satisfied patients, new customers, and business growth. We think that’s a pretty good ROI!

If you want to talk more about how the StriveHub Platform can help you retain your customers and grow referrals, click here and request a demo!

Sign Up for a Demo!

Ryan Klepps

Physical Therapist, COO & Co-Founder of Strive Labs, Inc.

Somerville, MA