2021 - Here We Go
Amidst a global pandemic filled with nerve-wracking moments for practice owners, PTs, and patients alike, the physical therapy industry has experienced a shift, unlike any other. The themes to watch for 2021 include a continuation of technology, patient engagement, prioritization, and even switching up your marketing fundamentals.
Practice owners can use these trends to their advantage to run a sound business and provide better care for their patients. Here are the top themes to watch as PTs brace for 2021:
1. COVID-19 and the Increased Reliance on Telehealth Services
As physical therapists begin to turn the corner, COVID-19 isn’t in their rear-view mirror, yet. Many states are reopening across the country and restrictions are easing, but the pandemic will affect physical therapists, even in the new year. According to the CDC, over 10 million Americans have received a vaccine as of writing. The prospects of 2021 are looking up. There will be plenty of headwinds to endure, with millions more needing vaccination. Any surges of the virus between now and then could cause patients to feel uneasy about in-person physical therapy—continuing to compromise patient and industry recovery. However, it seems as if the worst is over, and there is much optimism.
Physical therapy rendered by telehealth platforms is bridging the gap between now and the future. Some would argue, it is the future. The surge in demand for telehealth has increased overall usage and will continue to gain traction heading into 2021. While in-person therapy can’t be fully replicated, telehealth has a unique functionality providing convenience, adherence, and results. The recent announcement of permanent telehealth services covered under Medicare will likely spark further adoption by physical therapists and patients.
Patients and PTs have endured much during 2020, but the blueprint has been laid out for providing and receiving excellent care, even with the continued pressure of COVID-19. Favorable regulations that empower PTs to use technology are overcoming distance—having a positive effect on business. Patients using telehealth are sticking to their at-home physical therapy and stressing less over direct contact. These trends need to be at the forefront of every practice owner’s mind, so they can make adjustments as 2021 unfolds.
2. The Growing Importance of a Digital Footprint for Your Practice
When the world pressed pause during COVID-19, the explosive growth of digitization was unimaginable. Many practice owners were reluctant to check their own Facebook, much less run advertisements for their practice on social media platforms. Patient expectations have changed, and awareness isn’t limited to referrals. All 50 states, with varied provisions and limitations, allow direct access to physical therapy. This direct to patient access and strong digital adoption means practice owners should take a good hard look at increasing their social media presence.
It doesn’t stop there; with 90% of adults having access to the internet, your website is always on display and needs to look its best. While most practice owners already have a website, it needs to send a message to your prospective patients of trust, security, and professionalism.
Outside of the world of marketing, efficiency will play a massive role in 2021. With all-in-one software solutions balancing the most challenging aspects of running a practice, the call for seamless, integrated software is growing louder. Finding software that provides telehealth, billing, communications, and compliance in one bundle is essential to enrich the patient and staff experience.
3. An Opportunistic Patient Backlog
Medrisk’s COO Mary O’ Donoghue stated, “Researchers predicted it would take about 45 weeks to catch up with a backlog of surgeries and other medical procedures postponed because of COVID. Our data reflects this with significant fluctuations in post-surgical PT referrals as states closed and reopened, and this could happen again as cases spike.”
Non-essential surgeries are sitting on the fence and will be fully underway once hospitals get relief. Especially with the influx of COVID cases in the latter months of 2020, physical therapy is about to experience a massive spike in demand. Practice owners can capitalize on this trend by utilizing the best marketing mediums and building brand awareness. You should keep an updated website and participate in the local community on social media. Try to leverage referrals by promoting the power of PT to physicians using webinars, newsletters, and other educational content.
4. Mental Health Prioritization Through Physical Therapy
The CDC announced a boom of mental health issues during 2020, with 40% of U.S. adults reporting mental health or substance abuse issues. And while the pressures of COVID dramatically inflate these statistics, physical therapy can give patients the tools to begin the healing process moving forward. Patients who are exposed to a more active lifestyle through rehabilitation or increased exercise notice the following changes:
- A reduction of overall stress, anxiety, and depression
- Increased energy and mood
- Better perception of self, leading to a happier and healthier lifestyle
- Increased cognitive functionality
- Improved sleeping habits
- And many more benefits.
Promoting the benefits of increased activity, range of motion or general functionality should be at the top of every practice owner’s list, especially in this current environment. You can reach out to patients targeting these specific benefits by making small changes to your overall marketing strategy.
The Bottom Line
This year has been challenging for physical therapists, but better days are ahead. The challenges practice owners faced this year will continue to some degree until we can stop the spread of COVID-19. The trend of digitization—bringing your practice into the now—has revolutionized the industry by making it easier to connect, bill, and communicate with patients.
Telehealth has been another trend to keep your eye on, as patient and practice adaptation has soared to new heights. The convenience provided by this service will likely increase overall visits—even with the massive backlog for physical therapy services.
All changes aside, taking care of patients’ physical and mental health is still the bottom line. Monitor these trends and adapt as necessary. If you’re considering futureproofing and building on your already successful practice, try out a free demo of MWTherapy’s all-in-one software.