Practice Innovation through Technology
Answering questions with member Todd Ball
As told to Charles Scogna
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF
My name is Todd Ball, and I am a physical therapist with 25 years of experience in outpatient physical therapy. My background is in manual therapy and Pilates based post-physical therapy maintenance. I am currently clinical director at SymFit PT and Fitness in Denver, Colorado, where we specialize in video-on-demand (VOD) and virtual physical therapy options. We were awarded by WebPT as the most innovative physical therapy practice in 2020.
WHAT DROVE YOU TOWARD VOD AND VIRTUAL OFFERINGS FOR PATIENTS?
In the past, I was the clinical director of Polestar Pilates Denver and was introduced to the power of post-physical therapy maintenance classes and programs. These programs expand the scope of care beyond injury management to provide fitness solutions that service patients’ long-term injury management and prevention needs.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we followed that same model and scheduled bi-weekly, in-clinic sessions. At the same time, we had a small international referral base that were progressing through our program virtually. We noticed the virtual patients were progressing further through the program and at a faster pace than those coming into the clinic. Once the pandemic hit, we tested to see if all our patients would adapt to a virtual style of care. We converted all in-clinic clients to our virtual platform for three months and saw overwhelmingly positive results.
HOW HAVE YOU UTILIZED VOD AND VIRTUAL OPTIONS TO ASSIST PATIENTS?
We saw post-COVID-19, virtual clients were doing more of the program daily than those coming into the center. Instead of getting manual therapy, the virtual clients were more compliant with the self-correction techniques that are built into each workout. In essence, we were teaching the virtual clients how to treat themselves.
When we resumed in-clinic care, we limited in-clinic visits to one per week with every other treatment virtual. Our passive VOD revenues have skyrocketed. We cut 50% of our space while providing a better product and improved client retention from 35% to 65%.
WHAT’S A SESSION LIKE FOR IN-CLINIC PATIENTS NOW?
We have restructured our Cap Hill clinic and implemented a room rental scheduling system that allows us to guide patients through our model with complete social distancing. Each room has a touch screen PC mounted in the center of the room to guide patients through the three injury-management levels of the program. This improved communication flow and reduced workload on the staff.
A typical visit begins in the functional mobility room, where a patient self-corrects joint misalignments by completing a five-minute functional mobility routine equal to the level of conditioning. Then the patient performs a four-minute joint clearing routine prescribed to address their own joint misalignments.
After, a patient will head to the physical therapy room for 10-15 minutes with the physical therapist. There the therapist confirms the patient was successful in addressing their joint clearing techniques.
Finally, a patient will head to the neutral spine/functional conditioning room where they complete neutral spine and functional therapy based on their level of conditioning.
These workouts are identical to those they are prescribed and can access through our video-on-demand platform SymFitTV. We have in essence automated our treatment model, reducing the amount of communication per session by 33% and increasing compliance by 300%.
WHY DO YOU BELIEVE VOD AND VIRTUAL SESSIONS HAVE BEEN SUCH A HIT?
The most powerful resource we have to offer as physical therapists is knowledge and expertise in how to dispense that knowledge in ways the yield the best results based on the individual needs of each patient. We guide patients toward physical wellness, because we are most qualified to put these plans together and supervise them.
Also, patients feel the benefits more often. We went from seeing a patients in-clinic once every two weeks, to in-clinic clients once a week and virtually once a week.
Patients are spending less money to reach their goals, but we are making more money per referral because they are purchasing more post-PT maintenance packages.
On our end, we are spending less money to provide care through automation, which is resulting in improved net profits.
WHAT’S THE TAKEAWAY FOR OTHER PRACTICE OWNERS?
That by merging technology into an out-patient physical therapy setting, you can expand the care opportunities for a practice and its patients. VOD and video live streaming create valuable opportunities to improve adherence to care plans in addition to providing valuable new revenue streams for practices while also limiting in-clinic traffic. I urge practice owners to evaluate how they can use technology to their benefit.
Todd Ball is an out-patient physical therapy practice owner. He and his wife, Jennifer, started SymFit Physical Therapy in 2012 and have been challenging boundaries of what is possible in out-patient physical therapy ever since. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Scogna is a PPS staff writer based in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. He may be reached at email@example.com.