Building Relationships with Physical Therapists
Clubs have a great opportunity to step in where physical therapy leaves off by offering “bridge” programs to fill the gap between rehab and fitness. Offering these programs addresses a growing need (think Baby Boomers with knee or hip replacements) and sets your club apart in a way that can have a positive impact on attracting new members and retaining current members.
In recent years, the physical therapy profession has felt the impact of changes ushered in with the Affordable Care Act. Physical therapists are now required to see more patients in a day (up to nine per day versus six previously), which limits the amount of time they can spend with each patient. Insurance companies are limiting the total number of personal training sessions a patient can attend. And, in many cases, insurance co-pays have increased beyond a patient’s ability to pay. As a result, patients are either discharged before they’ve been completely rehabilitated, or they can’t afford to continue. They leave the clinic with instructions on continuing their exercises on their own and that’s that, they’re on their own.
Because post-rehab transition programs depend almost completely on referrals from physical therapists, building relationships with area physical therapists and clinics will be key. Keeping in mind that therapists want to see their patients continue to progress beyond therapy, they can be hesitant about referring them to a gym and personal trainers they know nothing about. There’s concern, and rightfully so, that a bad referral could reflect poorly on the physical therapist’s credibility.
The best way to build and cement these relationships is to demonstrate that your post-rehab transition program is safe, professional and includes the following:
1. Structured guidelines and protocols based on industry standards (e.g., ACSM), which includes pre and post assessments, tracking and reporting.
2. Qualified, certified fitness professionals with an understanding of anatomy and muscle physiology; training in proper exercise progressions; and the ability to create individualized programs and measurable goals specific to the client’s needs.
3. Appropriate exercise equipment, i.e., like that found in physical therapy clinics. This includes low-impact, total-body recumbent cross trainers; balance and stability products; and exercise bands.
With all the above in place, the next step is to connect with area physical therapists and clinics and “sell” them on your services. Set up appointments. Take professional looking brochures to your visit. Invite them to visit your club so they can see for themselves your program has what it takes for that highly-coveted referral.
Linda Wojciechowicz is the vice president of sales and marketing at NuStep, LLC. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit nustep.com.