Want to learn exactly what the changes in Direct Access laws mean for your practice?
Keep reading to learn how these laws are changing the landscape of PT marketing in Texas and tips for making the switch to direct access marketing.
New Laws vs. the Old
Prior to September 1, 2019, physical therapists were only permitted to evaluate potential patients but, PTs could not treat or advise them without a referral from a doctor.
The new Texas Direct Access bill (HB 29) grants patients direct access to physical therapy without the need for a doctor’s note. This bill was signed by Governor Greg Abbott and put into effect at the beginning of September 2019.
Texas is now the 49th state to pass direct access legislation.
This new law is revolutionary for both patients and therapists. Direct access means reduced wait times and access to immediate care and treatment. It also eliminates the need for costly and unnecessary visits to a physician prior to seeking physical therapy services.
Texas Direct Access Law Loopholes
What new medical bill would be complete without a few stipulations and loopholes? While patients no longer need referrals to seek out PT care, therapists need to keep a few things in mind:
- Patients can receive treatment without a referral for up to 10 consecutive business days. These visits are permitted for therapists with a doctoral degree or those with required education and training.
- Physical therapists with a doctoral degree in PT and additional residency or fellowship training can treat patients for up to 15 consecutive business days.
- All physical therapists treating patients without a referral must be licensed to practice for a minimum of one year and have liability insurance.
- Referrals from a qualified medical professional are still required for treatment beyond the approved number of consecutive visits.
But, the new direct access law isn’t just changing the landscape of healthcare. It also means big changes for physical therapists in Texas and the way they currently do business.
Direct Access Marketing for Physical Therapists
Practicing physical therapists have to stay informed and up-to-date on the rules and regulations surrounding patient treatment. This guarantees you’re practicing within the parameters of Texas law.
But beyond that, therapists must now completely rethink their marketing efforts.
Previously, PT marketing relied on referrals from doctor’s offices and other medical professionals.
Now, marketing efforts can include going direct to the consumer. After all, the power has shifted to the hands of the patient. It’s up to them to choose what kind of care is best for their needs.
So how can you give your marketing plan a makeover and make the shift to Direct Access Marketing? Let’s take a look!
Get to Know the Specific Needs of Your Patients
In order to successfully market to individual patients, you need to understand (and appeal to) their specific needs.
Are you dealing with sports-related injuries, car accident victims, or elderly patients in need of rehabilitation? Once you determine the type of clientele you want to attract, you can formulate a marketing plan to fit their needs.
- What type of physical therapy service do they need?
How long will treatment take?
- Where are they seeking out information about physical therapy?
- How and where do they spend most of their time?
Answering these questions will help paint a picture of your target audience, including how and where to direct your marketing efforts.
Create an Online Presence
It’s no big surprise that in today’s internet-dependent world that your practice needs a website and an online presence to succeed. If you don’t already have one, your number one task is to create a user-friendly site to promote yourself.
A few things to keep in mind when designing your pages include:
- Easy navigation
- Fast loading pages
- Clear, easy to find contact information
- SEO (search engine optimization)
These are just a handful of the elements any successful website needs to rank on Google. In fact, most people use a basic internet search when looking for medical care.
While having a website is a great first step in creating an online presence, it’s not the only one.
Your practice should also be visible on social media (including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). With over 3.2 billion people using one or more of these social media platforms, this is one piece of the marketing pie you can’t afford to miss.Manage Your Reputation
With the creation of an online presence also comes reputation management. Before long, you’ll find your website on countless review sites including Yelp, Zocdoc, and Healthgrades, just to name a few.
And while this exposure is good, it also means managing these review sites to keep your reputation intact. Chances are, you’ll receive at least a few negative reviews from time to time…
Don’t panic. This is completely normal. What’s more important is how you react to negative comments.
First things first – don’t ignore them! It may be tempting to simply scroll past a former patient’s rant about your practice, especially if what they’re saying isn’t true…
Unfortunately, you need to respond to each and every comment – good or bad. Responding to less-than-stellar reviews shows a level of professionalism and accountability. This is appealing to prospective clients.
It may even convince former, disgruntled patients to give your practice another chance.
Ideally, you also want to be proactive about receiving positive reviews from patients who experience good outcomes from working with you.
Asking for a written testimonial when a patient graduates can quickly add up to dozens or even hundreds of glowing reviews for your practice.
Get to Know Your Competition
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Sizing up your competition can help you to better focus your own marketing efforts.
Do some research to learn what your competitors are doing right and what they’re doing wrong. What types of services do they offer? Are they similar to your own? How are they marketing their services to potential patients?
Take this information and use it to your benefit. Perhaps it’s time you offer additional services or revamp your current system. Sometimes, you have to look outward before you can look internally to make positive changes.
It’s also a good idea to look at examples of effective marketing outside the PT industry to come up with ideas you can adapt to your practice.
Mistakes to Avoid
Using direct access marketing isn’t just about knowing what to do – it’s also important to understand what pitfalls to avoid. Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating your marketing plan.
Don’t Cut Corners
There’s no “get rich quick” scheme when it comes to marketing your practice. Creating a successful marketing plan takes time, money, and attention to detail.
Start by choosing a reasonable budget. The good news is, once you identify your target market you can focus your advertising efforts accordingly.
Consider these other factors when creating your budget:
- What is your current financial situation?
- How much are you willing to spend?
- How will you monitor your ROI?
- Where will you divide your funds?
Avoid putting all of your eggs into one basket, so to speak. Don’t spend all of your funds in one place.
Spread out your marketing efforts between a few different outlets including email, social media, and traditional mailers.
Above all else, don’t assume when it comes to tracking results from marketing. You want to keep track of every dollar you spend and the ROI each of your campaigns delivers.
Don’t Overwhelm Patients with Advertisements
One major mistake practices make when trying to drum up business is bombarding patients with advertisements. No one likes to be hounded.
This is especially true if you’re advertising to current patients. You’ve already convinced them to use your services, you don’t need to beat them over the head with paid ads.
Advertisement overload most commonly occurs on social media. Avoid filling your feeds with advertisements. Instead, share helpful and informative posts about trending topics.
Keep this in mind when it comes to your email marketing campaign as well. Nothing will earn you an “unsubscribe” faster than spamming someone’s account.
Don’t Overlook Your Current Clientele
In an effort to attract new patients, some therapists overlook their current client base. Don’t let this be you.
Tap into your loyal customers and ask for help. This can come in the form of personal referrals or positive online reviews.
Another important thing to remember is that Google takes positive online reviews into account when producing SERPs (search engine results page). The more positive reviews you have, the better your chances for ranking at the top.
Why Direct Access Marketing Works
Check out a few more ways that direct access care is benefiting both patients and therapists…
Fast, Effective Treatment
One of the biggest complaints about the healthcare system among patients is its inefficiency and wait times. The introduction of direct access care means patients receive the treatment they need, when they need it.
Immediate care also makes your job as a therapist that much easier. All too often patients wait weeks, or even months, to see their primary physician for a referral.
Direct access allows patients to choose their own therapist and book an appointment right away.
This means more patient flow into your office and less time wasted fixing a problem that’s gone unaddressed for too long.
While direct access doesn’t change the type of care patients receive, it does alter their perception of care. The ability to make their own choice and book appointments freely puts patients in the driver’s seat.
Imagine you have two potential patients waiting for you in two different exam rooms in your practice. Patient A is a referral from a physician. Patient B has come to you via direct access.
When you ask Patient A why they came to your clinic, their only response is that their doctor told them to come.
When you ask Patient B the same question, they mention seeing an ad for your practice online and then reading a few reviews from your past patients before deciding that you were someone who could help them.
Now…if you could press a button and instantly have more of one type of patient at your practice would you choose A or B?
Or to put it another way, between Patient A and Patient B, who do you think is more likely to complete their plan of care? Who’s more likely to walk away from working with you as a satisfied patient?
Satisfied patients are more likely to refer friends and family to your practice. They’ll also be willing to leave you a positive review or comment online, boosting traffic to your website and your office.
Direct access care is cost-effective for both patients and therapists. Patients save money through bypassing an unnecessary doctor’s visit simply to get a referral.
When patients get immediate care, they’re less likely to need medications, X-rays, injections, or prolonged treatment. This means fewer visits and quicker recovery, creating a positive experience for all those involved.
Breakthrough Marketing for All Your Marketing Needs
In the age of direct access care, you can’t afford to leave your new patient numbers up to chance. It’s your job to take control of your success and implement a few of these direct access marketing tips.
Are you looking to collaborate with other physical therapy marketing professionals in your field and learn even more about the evolving Texas healthcare system?
Attend our PT Marketing Summit or contact Breakthrough Marketing today to take control of your future.You can also check out our resource center. This is another great spot for online workshops and training geared toward professionals like you!