PTPN Insights

Position yourself as the provider of choice for workers’ comp patients.

March 26th, 2014 |

Position yourself as the provider of choice for workers' comp patients.While workers’ compensation claims have declined by 60% over the last 40 years, employer costs for those claims continue to increase. And when more than 25% of these claims are due to injuries caused by lifting, pushing, pulling, holding and carrying, problems that affect the musculoskeletal system, it’s easy to understand why workers’ comp payers might be viewing therapy providers with increased scrutiny.

In these market conditions, physical and occupational therapists have to think about how to market their practices to such payers. Recent research indicates that prompt therapy can dramatically reduce workers’ comp costs, so the time is right to capitalize on employers’ need to control costs. Here are some things that private practice owners can do to make their therapy clinics attractive to payers.

  1. Prove that your practice is one of the best.

Many therapists have come to see that measuring outcomes is beneficial for both patients and practice owners. Determining what works for patients — and what doesn’t — helps patients recover faster. In addition, the data your office collects will allow you to give physicians, case managers, adjusters and injured workers specific information about why you are better than your competitors. You’ll have much more compelling and effective marketing messages than other competitors who don’t have data to back up their assertions.

At PTPN, we’ve demonstrated the value of measuring therapy outcomes via our national rehabilitation outcomes program; payers now reward our members for participating in these programs. Our members have been collecting data for several years now and continue to improve their practices through such measures: More therapy offices are qualifying for incentives as the programs move from year one to year two, indicating that therapists are working hard to achieve better results and earn the incentive payments. PTPN members also have access to the PTPN Outcomes Toolkit, which includes templates of reports that can show payers how they perform compared to national benchmarks.

  1. Measure your patients’ functional status before treatment begins.

When evaluating the injured worker, therapists should take into account how the injury would affect her ability to do her job. Providers should measure and report functional status at the beginning of treatment, during treatment and at discharge, to track progress and to identify when the patient’s level of function allows for a return to work. The best data measurement systems will compare each patient’s progress to national benchmarks, tracked by a third party, rather than by providers themselves.

  1. Provide individualized treatment plans.

Researchers have found that such factors as age, gender and severity of injury affect return to work, so providers should take an individual approach to crafting a treatment plan for each patient. High-performing providers use a combination of treatment goals and outcomes measurement tools that are adjusted for the specific condition and parameters of that specific patient, rather than one-size-fits-most treatment guidelines or diagnostic categories.

  1. Join a network that helps you do all of the above — and more.

Of course, one way to tick all of these boxes is to join an organization that provides the resources and know-how to access workers’ comp business. Look for an organization that:

  • Provides your office with a third-party outcomes measurement program that compares your performance to national benchmarks, assesses functional status, and has an individualized, risk-adjusted approach to patients’ therapy needs.

  • Has an active sales and marketing team that secures new workers’ comp contracts (with fair rates and terms!) on your behalf on an ongoing basis.

  • Channels business to your practice via an appointment-setting program that connects injured workers with its members. PTPN’s AccessPoint connects patients with providers quickly: PTPN collects patient and authorization information and contacts the patient to schedule his first appointment with a physical therapist. PTPN even shares the patient’s information with the PT’s office, reducing paperwork for the patient, and makes sure the injured worker has begun rehabilitation.

  • Is owned and operated by therapists and practice owners who understand your challenges and share your values.

Printable version.

For further reading:

Workers’ compensation benefits, employer costs rise: study. Insurance Journal, August 20, 2013.

Fritz JM, Childs JD, Wainner RS, Flynn TW. Primary care referral of patients with low back pain to physical therapy: impact on future health care utilization and costs. Spine (Phila Pa 1976), December 1, 2012.

Payers adopt PTPN’s first-of-its-kind “Pay for Outcomes” program to identify and reward high-performing rehabilitation providers. PTPN, October 18, 2012.

Gellhorn AC, Chan L, Martin B, Friedly J. Management patterns in acute low back pain: the role of physical therapy. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). April 20, 2012.

Ceniceros, Roberto. Top 5 workplace injury causes make up 72% of direct workers comp costs: Analysis. Business Insurance, January 10, 2012.

Injury and illness prevention programs. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, January 2012.

Seabury, Seth A., Robert T. Reville, Stephanie Williamson, et al. Workers’ compensation reform and return to work. Rand Center for Health and Safety in the Workplace, 2011.