Breakthrough - Unlock The 5 Key Sources of New Patient Flow For PT Private Practice

5 Key Flows For New Patients

In today’s hyper-competitive healthcare environment, keeping a steady flow of patients is crucial for the survival and growth of your physical therapy private practice. But where do new patients come from? They usually emanate from five key pathways. These pathways are essential routes to patient attraction and growth for any healthcare practice.

With each pathway, use the strategy listed to see more new patients come in your doors.

Understanding the Five Key Pathways of Patient Flow

Understanding these pathways can give you the insights you need to target each one effectively and optimize your overall physical therapy marketing strategy. Let’s take a deeper dive into these pathways and explore practical strategies to maximize each channel’s potential.

1. Reactivations: Bringing Back Past Patients

Reactivations refer to past patients returning for additional care. Reactivating past patients is an efficient way to bolster your patient list, as you’ve already established credibility and rapport with these patients.

  • Strategy: Maintain regular interaction with your patient list through newsletters, email campaigns, text messages, or personalized handwritten letters.

2. Word-of-Mouth Referrals: Leveraging Satisfied Patients

This pathway involves referrals from existing patients. Fostering word-of-mouth referrals involves maintaining a high quality of care, establishing strong rapport, and encouraging your satisfied patients to share their experiences.

  • Strategy: Implement a formal referral program incentivizing referrals with exclusive benefits or rewards.

3. Physician Referrals: Building Relationships with Healthcare Professionals

Maintain good relations with physicians, nurse practitioners, and other medical professionals to facilitate their referral process.

  • Strategy: Provide regular updates about your services and capacities to healthcare professionals.

4. Partner Referrals: Leveraging Business Partnerships

Form partnerships with gyms, yoga studios, large employers, or any organization serving your ideal clientele to promote your practice.

  • Strategy: Offer special packages and conduct workshops that are mutually beneficial to local businesses – you’ll be able to offer your services to their patrons and benefit from their marketing efforts.

5. Cold Traffic Marketing: Attracting Unknown Prospects

This pathway involves tapping into completely unknown prospects who aren’t familiar with your practice. Creative online advertising and focused marketing campaigns are essential here.

  • Strategy: Build a robust online presence, invest in direct response ads, adopt SEO practices, and build funnels (ads, landing pages, & automated emails) to attract your ideal patients.

Conclusion: Maximizing the Potential of Patient Flow

Understanding these five main pathways of patient flow is fundamental to boosting your practice’s growth. Tailoring strategies to accommodate each pathway will allow your physical therapy private practice to maximize the vast potential they collectively offer.

Recalibrating your physical therapy marketing efforts to embrace these pathways to patient flow will not only enhance your current patient base but will also set your practice on the path to profitability and sustainable growth. 

Ready to unlock the potential of these patient flows to attract more patients and supercharge your practice growth? Sign up for a Practice Growth Strategy Call to learn how you can optimize your marketing strategy today.

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One of the alarming metrics I share about Madden PT (my Private Practice) is in 2009, we hit an all-time highest ever of 154 New Patients referred by physicians, in one month.


Due to the changing healthcare environment (Hospital systems, POPTS practice come to mind), that number shrunk to 30 New Patients for us in March.

So we’ve gone on a progressive decline from 154 down to 30 in physician referrals.

Yet we’re busier than ever before…

Our income is better than ever before…

We’re seeing more ideal clients than ever before…

Our patient compliance and graduation rate is better than ever before…

And we continue to grow…

So What’s the Deal?

A month or two ago in the “Breakthrough Marketing Strategies for Physical Therapists and Owners” group on LinkedIn…another owner stated:

“We need referrals from doctors to stay in business… if we don’t have that, we might as well join them.”

(I’m paraphrasing, and unfortunately not giving the full context in the space provided here, yet I’m sure you get the point).

I’ll politely decline to agree with the comment, and here’s why.

In spite of operating in one of the most competitive healthcare markets in the U.S., my Private Practice continues to grow (we doubled profitability in 2013, over any other year in business).

So what’s the BIG Secret of how we continue to grow and expand in spite of shrinking referrals?


Acres of Diamonds

One of my favorite stories of all-time is Russell Conwell’s “Acres of Diamonds” (you can Google it and read it later).

In the story, a farmer sells his land and farm in Africa and spends the rest of his life desperately searching for diamonds, and dies broke and a failure.

Meanwhile the land that he sold, the farm, later was discovered to be on top of the largest diamond mine in the history of the world…

I’m not sure if the story is true or not.

It’s a good one though.

And it illustrates a point I believe many of us Physical Therapy Private Practice Owners miss…

We’re sitting on Acres of Diamonds, and don’t even realize it…


BIG Secret Revealed

In my Direct Access Marketing Training, one of the first things I share is the value of:

Your Past PT Patient List (Your Acres of Diamonds)

These people already know you.

They like you.

They trust you.

And now you’ve discharged then and maybe even encouraged them to never come back again…

M-I-S-T-A-K-E (and one I made for years).

In any industry, in any business, the #1 Asset of the business is the customer list AND the relationship of that business with their customers.

And as in other businesses, you can choose to:

  1. Ignore your patient list.
  2. Send them generic, meaningless B.S. that portrays, we hope, that we care about our patients…
  3. Or send them meaningful communication that allows that patient to continue to feel connected to us.


What Meaningful and Valuable Communication Can Do For You and Your PT Private Practice

Two weeks ago we hit an all-time high here at Madden PT, 17 Returning Patients in one week.

That’s 17 New Patients just from our past patient list.

Our team was pumped.

And you can do the same…

Staying in contact with your past patient list does several things:

  • Keeps you top of mind for their Physical Therapy needs…
  • Establishes you as an Authority, Celebrity and Expert (A.C.E.)
  • Makes it more likely they refer their friends and family to you…

And my favorite benefit, if you do this the right way.

They’ll come back years later and talk to you as though they’ve never left.

It’s pretty cool…

Like they’re part of your family.

(I cover step-by-step how I’ve done this at Madden PT for the past 10 years, in my Killer Marketing Training, only open to Private Practice PTs unfortunately, the enrollment period for the latest group of owners is closed as of this writing… we’ll be opening another Direct Access Marketing Course later this year).

***As an aside, by far your greatest Return on Marketing Investment (ROI) should come from your marketing efforts to your past patient base…NOT the unwashed masses of the general public.  Write this down…and reread it until it’s etched into your subconscious business mind.***

So How Do You Stay in Touch With Your Past PT Patients?

Well you have quite a few options when choosing how to stay in touch with your past patients…

If you’ve been following my blog, you know by now I’m a huge fan of Direct Response Marketers, especially Dan Kennedy.

For years, Dan taught a concept called “Market-Message-Media” match…meaning for your marketing to work, you need to match the right market with the right message using the right media.

So for our past patients and considering “Media”, here’s a few options:

  • Email
  • Snail Mail (including postcards, letters, and newsletters)
  • Facebook and other Social Media
  • Fax
  • Texting
  • Phone
  • Live communication, such as at an event…
  • Smoke signals…

You get the point…

So, which “Media” is most used by your past patients AND are they most likely to respond to?

(That’s what I would use, and what I share in the Killer Marketing Training).

On the negative side I dropped my Twitter efforts years ago, because my Target Market is not using Twitter.


OK, You Picked Your Media…Now What Do You Put in There?  What’s Your Message?

Again, due to the limits of space and time, I’m going to touch on this briefly…

I can tell you what your message should NOT consist of, at least from experience.

100% PT Jargon-filled, condition-related advice…

You know what I’ve found to work best?

Yes. Donkeys.


Recently in a bulletin we sent out to our past Patient List (a touch over 7,000 people), we did a cover story on the 3 Mini Donkeys we have on our farm…and the story of how one ends up with 3 Mini Donkeys: Haley, MoonBeam and Peppermint Patty (who is expecting in August, so make that 4 Mini Donkeys).

A little quirky…

A bit different…

BUT Crazy effective at building long term relationships with past patients (aka customers) who already know, like and trust us…

And WAY outside of the box of typical “marketing” you’d get from your PT.

At this point, it’s in your court…

Are you going to continue to rely on physician referrals 100% to grow your practice?

Even though you KNOW they’re being bought up by the local hospital system…or may be opening their own POPTS clinic in the future?

Or are you going to start working your past patient list?

Warming it up?

And eventually seeing them after their TKR, for your PT, even when the orthopedic surgeon says he wants them to go to the PT in his basement because they “communicate better” (even though we really know it’s because the ortho owns that clinic)?

So what’s it going to be?

If you’ve been following the full Patient Funnel…then you know we’ve covered 5 Steps so far:

  1. Lead Magnet
  2. TripWire
  3. Core Service
  4. Upsells and Cash Pay Services
  5. And now, the Return Path

Next time, I’ll be covering “Referrals”, and how we just hit a Highest Ever for New Patients referred by other patients in one week: 14.  (That’s for one clinic.)

That will be my last blog covering the Patient Funnel…

Do you have something you’d like to read about regarding Private Practice PT Marketing?  Hit the “Like” button and leave a suggestion below…

Also, as I mentioned earlier, my Killer Marketing Training Enrollment is closed as of this writing, and won’t open again for likely another 6 months.

BUT in the mean time, I do have a few tools I can share with you IF you’re a Private Practice PT or Private Practice Owner.

I put together a “Fix Your Funnel” package which includes:

  • “My Greatest Promotion Ever”…which is the step by step guide to a single day promotion we used at Madden PT which resulted in 65 New Patients in one day (October 29, 2013) and 50 New Patients PLUS a Waiting List (on November 4, 2014).
  • The Killer Testimonial Machine…which is how we’ve collected over 4,000 Patient Stories and Testimonials from our patients…this includes the “What to say”; the template we use…and what we do with the testimonial once it’s written by the patient.

Go here to check out the offer:

I’ll leave it up at least through the next month.

Hope this helps you,


We use Tripwires now because early on in my Private PT Practice, I gave away a ton of free PT Patient screenings.

And I remember one couple specifically who came in…

They both had clear neck and lower back dysfunctions that would have been easy to treat.

Both were young and would have responded well to Physical Therapy.

(I think I may have even treated both, for Free, and both had immediate relief).

BUT – when we walked out front to schedule (after giving over one hour of time to them), the excuses started…

They wanted nothing to do with being a paying PT patient: they were “Freeloaders”, and just wanted Free stuff.

I store that experience in the same part of my brain with the receptionist who stole co-pays (cash) from me, or the 4 teenage gypsies who scammed me for $2 in Frankfurt, Germany.

And they’re pretty lousy memories…

So when someone responds to our Physical Therapy Patient Lead Magnet, they’ve raised their hand and said, “Yes. I have that problem. I qualify for your offer. AND I want the free stuff…”

What do we, the Private Practice PT with limited time, money and resources do next?

Enter the Tripwire Offer…

The easiest way to separate the wheat from the chaffe (the good part of the wheat from the not useful part) is to have a Tripwire Offer.

Take my Physical Therapy Marketing YouTube videos for example…

“Top 3 Exercises for Sciatica and Pinched Nerves” has been averaging 50,000 views per month for over a year now.

So that’s 50,000 people per month raising their hand and saying, “Yes, I have pain, numbness and tingling in my leg.”

Two out of three people watch the video to the end, so let’s assume that’s ⅔ of 50,000 (or 33,333 people) who watch the video.

Embedded in the video is an ad… my ad.

If they click the ad, they go to a “Squeeze Page”.

A squeeze page is an “Opt-in Page” where a person enters his or her name in exchange for other information – Classic Lead Magnet – and that information is FREE.

(I prefer to use information [ebook, report, etc] as a Lead Magnet, over Free services or Free products, for the reason that people who consume information tend to be better buyers, and better patients. Plus I’m not losing valuable time).

So once a person opts-in (I don’t know the exact number we have today, but we had over 3,000 opt-ins in the first 90 days), we can give them other valuable information relevant to what they raised their hand for. In this case “sciatica”.

Eventually, we want to see if that person is a potential customer… or a Freeloader.

And the way to do that is with a Tripwire offer…

What is a Tripwire Offer?

Think of a tripwire as an irresistible, unbelievable deal.

The goal for us is not necessarily to make money, nor a profit; it’s just to see if this potential patient, customer or client has a pulse and has the ability to buy.

Once they’ve established the ability to buy, then we can invest our marketing dollars specifically into that group of potential buyers.

In the YouTube example above, I sell an electronic version of my book, “Pain Free Motion for Your Lower Back” for $5.99…

In an odd, almost too good to be true way, YouTube gives provides a way for free lead generation: I pay nothing for having videos on YouTube (other than the time it took me to record and post valuable information), and Google (who owns YouTube) sends me a monthly check for videos I have posted… unreal.

So we have 33,333 raising their hands saying, “Yes, I have pain, numbness and tingling running down my leg”, searching for answers online, AND watching my short but valuable 4 minute video.

Approximately 1,000 of those viewers each month click on the ad within the video for more information.

AND enter in their name and email address on our “Opt-In” or “Squeeze” page. (It’s referred to as a “squeeze” page because it “squeezes” information out of a potential customer).

And 40 of those people buy my book in pdf format

And potentially other offers.

So, the e-book (pdf) is the Tripwire.

How to Apply Tripwires to Bricks-N-Mortar Private Practice PT

The PT Industry trend, especially in Private Practice PT (and often in the chiropractic industry), is to offer a Free Screen.

No Lead Magnet – nothing offered that can be quickly and easily consumed WITHOUT taking time, money or resources from the PT.

So offer the Free PT Patient Screening, and “determine if the potential patient would benefit from PT” OR “a PT sales pitch”.

Then hope they sign up for a true IE…a 97001.

Then start the whole process during the 97001 for a full plan of care, or at least one or two more visits.

Since this method is so popular (and I did it for years myself semi-successfully) we’ll call it the “Old Way”.

There is a Better Way…The “New Way” to Use Tripwires

(As is always true with any marketing technique…you should always test, test, test. You’ll want to be scientific about what works best for your market. And gives you the best ROI: Return on Your Investment. If you’d like to read more on how to be “Scientific” in your Marketing, the same way you are scientific and using Evidence-based Practice as a Physical Therapist in the clinic, send me an email at [email protected], and I’ll send you a PDF copy of my favorite classic marketing book of all time… it is no longer in print so it sells for over $100 on Amazon).

Anyhow, where was I?

Oh yeah…Tripwires.

Over time, I’ve found that most true buyers, people who are willing to pay you for your services once they see that you are legitimate and are ready for help, will WANT to pay you.

That is important, so read that sentence again.

Most PTs (myself included) try to do too much free stuff up front…

You only need one Lead Magnet.

In another article on my 3 Favorite Lead Magnets of All Time, I shared how I use Lead Magnets in Private Practice PT to attract ideal patients.

The tendency is to stack them…

A potential patient comes to a Free Webinar on Back Pain and Sciatica…

In the past, I’d offer a Free Screening, essentially another Lead Magnet.

Now, we’re testing a nominal charge for the screening. We’ll ultimately test from $11 to $59.

And here’s the weird part that’s a little counter-intuitive for our science-based PT brains to handle.

Real, true clients – the kind we like to work with, they’re ready to pay the minute they know, think or have hope we can help them…

So why prolong the agony and the courting process?

A potential patient who consumes your Lead Magnet, and now is beyond interested in you and your services… do you know what they are?

They’re in H-E-A-T!

They’re hot to buy… they’re ready.

Be ready to serve them… now.

Case in Point… A Funnel for You to Test.

Here’s the model I’m testing now.

I’d love to hear from you if you’re a Private Practice PT testing out similar ideas. Please contact us here for more information on our PT Marketing Services and Solutions.

  1. Postcard driving to a Lower Back Pain and Sciatica Workshop. Presently this is no cost (although my best one ever had over 100 register at $10/seat). Free = Lead Magnet.
  2. Attendees of the Lower Back Pain and Sciatica Workshop are given a Worksheet to fill out with 5 key points I make in the hour or so. Those who complete it (90%+ do) get an offer to schedule an appointment to see what’s causing their back pain for $11. We’re testing this offer presently.
  3. If and when the person schedules their full plan of care the $11 or $19 or $59 (or whatever the amount is we’re testing at the time) is then applied to their financial responsibility.
  4. Full plan of care scheduled after IE. (not visit to visit)

This is a little more savvy and complex than what we learn (or don’t learn) in PT school.

The days of relying on physician referrals may be over for the average Private Practice Owner…

And a well-tested Patient Attraction Funnel is the way to go

The end result is better control over the flow of New Patients to your clinic, less dependence on physician referrals, the ability to attract the type of patient you want to treat, increased patient compliance and a more financially sound Private Practice.

Big Point

It’s easy to waste marketing dollars in Private Practice, and frankly any business.

A Tripwire offer efficiently differentiates and discerns between your true buyers and those people who are just looking for something for free.

Put in a Tripwire, and distinguish who is willing to pay you, so you can focus your time, money and energy on giving them an amazing patient experience.

Want to Learn More on Patient Attraction Funnels for Private Practice PT…So You Can Stop Chasing Referrals?

I host frequent webinars, Free Tutorials, for Private Practice Owners.

The latest is How to Magnetically Attract Direct Access Patients. (The material also applies to PTs who do not have Direct Access).

Or to learn more visit our Physical Therapy and Direct Access Marketing Resource Center.

See you on the training and next on the blog.