Although being a physical therapist is a rewarding career, physical therapy comes with its own set of challenges.
And today, physical therapy problems include much more than just high education costs and trouble retaining patients.
Actually, physical therapy problems today can vary from unmotivated employees to adopting telemedicine into your physical therapy practice.
This means that if you want to maximize your physical therapy practice’s performance, you have to know what physical therapy problems you can expect AND how to tackle them.
Curious to know what the most common problems in physical therapy are today?
Look no further!
In this article, we will cover the 7 most common problems in physical therapy and exactly how to tackle them!
So let’s dive right in!
7 Most Common Problems in Physical Therapy
Without further ado, here are the 7 most common physical therapy problems in 2022:
Hygiene has always been an important part of any healthcare service, as it ensures that patients and physical therapists alike stay safe from catching any infections.
However, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, hygiene is a headliner when it comes to physical therapy problems.
In cases where remote physical therapy isn’t an option, working with patients face-to-face (both at home and in the clinic) puts physical therapists at an increased risk of getting COVID-19 and spreading it to their colleagues and other patients.
Because of this, ensuring high standards of hygiene in your physical therapy practice today is more important than ever before.
As of October 2020, telemedicine usage has increased over 3000% compared to 2019, and telehealth services only continue to expand.
However, most people could hardly imagine physical therapy without the physical contact between the therapist and the patient, and rightfully so - before the pandemic, telehealth was very rarely, if ever, used in physical therapy.
While both patients and physical therapists may be skeptical about the effectiveness of remote physical therapy, research shows that telerehabilitation is safe and effective even in very complex cases (e.g. treating patients with musculoskeletal conditions) that are typically treated in person.
As such, since the demand for remote physical therapy is rising, one of the key problems of physical therapy in 2022 is introducing telehealth into the practice.
#3. Adapting Your Physical Therapy Practice For COVID-19
COVID-19 has affected the healthcare industry in many ways.
For most physical therapists, this means having to modify their practice to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
If you run a physical therapy clinic, your best option is to switch to telemedicine.
Otherwise, you should modify your physical therapy practice according to the guidelines for physical therapy clinics proposed by APTA to ensure your patients and employees alike stay safe.
However, there are some of the problems you may encounter when modifying your physical therapy practice to reduce the risk of infection, including:
- Longer visit duration. Procedures such as checking each patient’s temperature and filling in the necessary paperwork (e.g. your patient’s recent travel history) may slow down your physical therapy practice.
- Decreased number of patients. Longer visit duration means you can accept fewer patients, while some APTA recommendations, too, can decrease the number of daily patients in your physical therapy clinic (e.g. providing only one-on-one patient care, adjusting your scheduling to minimize the number of patients in the waiting room, etc.)
- Additional costs. For example, you may need to expand your waiting room to ensure that patients stay 6 feet apart or buy more protective supplies, such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, etc. for your staff and patients.
Essentially, adjusting your physical therapy practice for COVID-19 can be time-consuming, costly, and take a toll on your physical therapy clinic's performance in general, making this one of the most common problems in physical therapy today.
#4. Patient Retention
Patient retention is an ever-relevant problem in physical therapy.
Essentially, there are two main reasons why patient retention is important to any physical therapy practice:
- Failure to go through the whole treatment can negatively affect patients’ health.
- Losing patients can financially hurt your physical therapy practice.
And, despite physical therapy’s importance, studies show that physical therapy dropout rates range from 3.8% up to 40% depending on the treatment and its duration.
To many physical therapy clinics today, this problem is more relevant than ever.
That is because some patients may choose physical therapy clinics that provide telehealth services over those that don’t.
In fact, 64% of Americans report having used telehealth services in 2020, and not without good reason - for 34% of them, telehealth was the only option to see a healthcare provider because of pandemic-related reasons.
In any case, physical therapy clinics need to retain their patients to grow their practice and ensure successful patient treatment.
#5. Physical Therapy Practice Management
Managing your physical therapy practice can be difficult, which is why practice management is one of the most common problems in physical therapy.
That’s because medical knowledge isn’t enough to effectively manage your private practice - at the very least, you also need business and accounting skills.
If you feel overwhelmed and struggle to manage your physical therapy practice, check out our medical practice management tips.
#6. Staff Management
Effective staff management is one of the most common physical therapy problems that can negatively affect your physical therapy clinic’s performance.
Here are the two most common staff management problems in physical therapy clinics:
- Recruiting and staffing. Hiring top talent is hard especially so in rural areas where there aren’t many candidates to choose from. On the other hand, overstaffing can lead your physical therapy clinic to financial problems.
- Unmotivated staff. There are various reasons why your employees might lose motivation, including poor compensation, physical therapist burnout, and having an unmanageable workload.
Poor staff management may result in reduced healthcare quality, decreased patient satisfaction, and other undesirable outcomes for your physical therapy practice.
This means that your physical therapy clinic’s performance depends on how successful you are at staff management, which is why you should pay particular attention to your staffing needs and employee motivation.
#7. Career Growth
Challenges in career development make up the kind of problems in physical therapy that most practitioners face sooner or later.
Essentially, once finished with their education, physical therapists are faced with huge student debt, considering that education fees at public universities have increased by 210% in the last three decades.
In addition, most physical therapists are required to constantly improve their skills by continuing their education, which makes getting high-quality training that doesn’t break the bank one of the most common problems in physical therapy.
On the other hand, some physical therapists wish to advance their career by opening a physical therapy clinic, which is a challenge in and of itself, given the fact that most physical therapists have no business background.
5 Ways to Tackle Physical Therapy Problems
Now that you’re aware of the most common problems in physical therapy, it’s time to look for solutions.
Here’s how you can tackle physical therapy problems:
#1. Maintain High Hygiene Standards
When it comes to hygiene in your physical therapy practice, washed hands aren’t nearly enough.
In fact, the guidelines for healthcare cleanliness are constantly changing - especially so since the start of the pandemic.
That is why, if you want your physical therapy practice to stay up to par with hygiene standards, you first have to make sure you stay informed about the latest hygiene recommendations.
So, make sure to research and apply local, national, or international hygiene recommendations to your physical therapy practice, such as those listed in CDC’s Guide to Infection Prevention For Outpatient Settings and APTA’s Considerations for Outpatient Physical Therapy Clinics During the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis.
#2. Motivate Your Employees
Motivated employees are guaranteed to ensure customer satisfaction and high-quality service.
Here are a few ways you can increase your staff’s motivation:
- Communication. Communication is key, so make sure to communicate with your employees clearly and honestly. This way, they will know exactly what their duties are and will feel comfortable asking any questions.
- Competitive compensation. Lower wages may lead to lower quality of healthcare, so, to hire and retain top talents in your physical therapy clinic, make sure that their compensation is competitive with other physical therapy clinics in your location.
- Performance bonuses. Performance-based bonuses may motivate your employees to put more effort into their work as well as make high-performing employees feel noticed and valued.
#3. Take Advantage of Online Education
Of course, as a physical therapist, you’re required to complete formal education.
If you’re a practicing physical therapist, though. there are some affordable additional education options you can try online, such as:
- Free APTA Continuing Education Courses. As a non-member, APTA allows you to complete 3 hours of physical therapy continuing education for free, while members have additional free education options.
- Online courses. You can find affordable physical therapy courses on online course platforms (such as Udemy) to deepen your knowledge.
#4. Increase Patient Retention
If any of your patients miss their appointments, you may be tempted to start charging a no-show fee to minimize financial losses.
However, this can also result in a further loss of patients.
So, here are some tips that will help you retain your physical therapy patients:
- Highlight physical therapy benefits. Oftentimes, patients who quit their treatment aren’t entirely convinced about its effect on their health. Therefore, educating your patients on the benefits of physical therapy may increase patient retention.
- Try positive reinforcement. Research shows that positive messages by healthcare professionals can motivate patients to take better care of their health, so praising your patients may help them to complete their treatment instead of quitting halfway.
- Use practice management software. This way, you can send your patients appointment reminders as well as optimize your physical therapy practice. Even more, you can track appointment cancellations, no-shows, and other important elements of your physical therapy practice that can help retain your patients.
#5. Use Practice Management Software
If you’re looking for a quick solution for most of the physical therapy problems listed above, you’d benefit from using practice management software (PMS) for your physical therapy practice.
The purpose of practice management software is to help you manage all the business and administrative processes needed to effectively run your physical therapy practice.
That means that practice management software allows you to manage your physical therapy clinic’s performance with ease, even if you don’t have a business background!
Not sure which practice management software to choose for your physical therapy practice?
Here’s how Medesk Practice Management Software can help you tackle physical therapy problems:
- Telemedicine - easily integrate telehealth into your physical therapy practice with Medesk PMS.
- Medical billing - automate your billing process to avoid any financial errors.
And much more!
Interested to try Medesk for your physical therapy practice? Start our free trial!
And now you know the most common problems in physical therapy!
Not just that - you’re now also armed and ready to tackle any physical therapy problems you may come across.
Let’s go over some of the key points we mentioned in this article:
- Maintaining a high level of hygiene is one of the most common problems in physical therapy, so following hygiene recommendations should be your top priority.
- Telehealth services are in high demand so adopting telemedicine can be beneficial to your business as it helps to easily adapt your physical therapy practice to accommodate patients that can’t receive treatment in person.
- Patient retention, staff management, and practice management are just a few of the problems in physical therapy that can be solved with practice management software.
- Online courses can help you to advance your physical therapy situation at a reduced cost.
- Most physical therapy problems can be easily and effectively tackled with the help of an integrated practice management software that helps you manage your clinic’s performance, retain patients, manage your staff, and provide online consultations for your patients.