Several health care reform initiatives focus on wellness and improving patient outcomes. Although many people see physical therapists as playing an integral role in recovering from a serious injury or surgery, physical therapy practices are in a unique position to deliver on these objectives by adding wellness programs to their existing services. Physical therapists have a deep understanding of how the human body functions and moves, which is why they are well-suited to helping people reach their fitness goals.
The term wellness is is more ambiguous than overall health because it applies to a high quality of life and a sense of physical well-being. A large component of wellness is preventative care, which is why physical therapists are in a unique position to emphasize ways in which patients can avoid injuries and disabilities. In addition, physical therapists can help their patients establish and maintain healthier lifestyles that include physical activity, according to the American Physical Therapy Association.
Improving wellness in the community
Obesity prevention has been a hot topic for the health care community for the past few years, and physical therapists can play a role in proactive health care by teaching people effective exercises. In this instance, physical therapists can lead patients through progressive exercises designed to minimize stress on the joints while improving overall fitness.
Avoiding obesity is only one way physical therapists can improve wellness. Wellness programs may lend themselves to a niche practice. For example, if your practice caters to athletes, you could start offering services to help people avoid some of the most common sports injuries.
Depending on your specialty, patient base and interests, your practice can craft a wellness strategy for any age group or activity level. In addition, you may be able to extend a wellness program to patients who have completed their course of treatment. This can serve as a transition for patients who want to develop their strength but aren’t ready to start going to a gym. Because these patients are already familiar with your clinic, they are likely comfortable continuing the pursuit of wellness with you.
Physical therapists can teach fitness classes to help patients improve wellness.
How to get started with a wellness program in your practice
Existing physical therapy practices need to check their current professional liability insurance before starting a wellness program to ensure it will be covered, Web PT suggested. Many policies apply to only medical risks that arise during professional services that are regulated by your state practice act.
Some physical-therapy-related wellness services are typically not covered by Medicare or other insurance plans, so providers need to transition existing and prospective patients to a private pay arrangement. Annual checkups are covered, but most fitness-based programs are not. However, yoga, strength training and Pilates can improve core strength and increase flexibility, fostering a stronger sense of well-being. These exercises have other key health benefits.
Implementing a wellness program takes careful consideration. If you have a staff member who is certified to teach yoga or Pilates, the employee can lead classes. However, some physical therapy practices bring in instructors to conduct classes or private sessions. You need to be aware of the required certifications before contracting out to these professionals. In addition, clinics need to determine the rate for these services since many fitness programs are not covered by insurance. You can research the rates for gyms, personal trainers and yoga studios in your area to determine a fair market price. Web PT suggested pricing your service slightly higher than commercial gyms because the cost will convey the message that your service offers a unique value that patients won’t be able to get elsewhere.
This article is brought to you by PREFERRED Therapy Providers Inc. PREFERRED is the nation’s leading payor management services network. Our expertise is working with physical, occupational and speech therapy practices – from single clinics to multiple clinic locations.