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Creating Physical Therapy Discharge Programs to Make the Process Easier

We've all had them.  Multiple times.  That one patient that becomes your friend, your buddy; inside the clinic only of course.  When we see they're on our schedule we get excited for that hour of the day.  We work harder and better for them because they are what it's all about.  It may be that sweet old lady that shares her wisdom and incredible life stories with you, or it could be that young teenager aspiring to be an athlete and super motivated about getting better, or just someone you can really relate to on a more personal level.

Over the years I've developed my favorites.  I've treated a pastor that doubled as a marriage counselor at his church.  He gave such amazing advice during his physical therapy treatments that I almost felt guilty he was paying me.  I've had so many little old men and women that really touched my heart with their experiences in life; I almost feel part of their family.  

These patients are the ones the make being a physical therapist worth it x100!  The problem arises when it comes time to discharge these folks.  It's hard for them to let go because they have built such an emotional relationship with you; and in some cases physical therapy is what they look forward to all week because they don't spend much time outside of their home otherwise.  Physical therapy becomes their social life.  

So what can we do as therapists to make this process easier on our best patients?  Insurance is no longer going to pay for services that are not "medically necessary" and it's beginning to become difficult justifying why they should continue to come in.  So what can we do?  

Developing different types of "discharge programs" for your graduated patients is the ticket!  A fitness program, or wellness package, or even a relaxation special should be added to your clinic's list of services for patients that have completed their programs.  It allows them to stay connected with you and your clinic, and also serves a more important purpose of maintaining the benefits and health they gained from their time in physical therapy.  Some examples of programs that work and give your patients options are:

  • Massage package - monthly membership for massages in your clinic by a massage therapist.  This doesn't mean you, as the PT, are the one seeing them. But they are still connected to your facility and you get the opportunity to socialize with them.
  • Fitness package - monthly membership for them to come in and use the gym equipment with or without assistance (depending on what your clinic prefers to offer).  This allows the patient to get out of house and exercise to maintain the gains they have made in PT.
  • Wellness package - this can be anything you want.  If you offer massages, laser treatments, exercise sessions; combine them all to create an all-encompassing package.
  • Group exercise classes - Start up a yoga class or senior fitness class.  These classes will encourage your patients to continue to interact with other past patients and stay fit.

Having options for your best patients (actually any patient) is a great option for you as the therapist and the patient.  If you're not already doing this in your clinic, try it and let me know how it works.  It should really help you to discharge patients easier knowing there is another option for them to continue if they'd like.

If you have any trouble tracking these new discharge packages, click here for more info on how Heno can help.

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