Treatment Rate Trends in Outpatient Rehab
COVID is spiking. What’s happening with patient treatment rates? With telehealth? What about cancellations?
As we have every month, Systems 4PT is sharing data, trends and perspective gained from our nationwide customer base. You will find our analysis both reassuring and sobering.
As the rate of COVID diagnoses skyrockets, practice owners nationwide are all asking the same question, “How is this affecting Outpatient Rehab?”
The Impact on Treatment Volume
Systems 4PT has updated patient treatment volume each month during the pandemic. We compare monthly treatment volume of Systems 4PT practices to those same practice’s 2019 actual levels. In October, treatment rates were 92% of normal and this month is trending toward 96% of normal, nationwide.
(So far), the recent dramatic increases in COVID diagnoses have not noticeably impacted patient treatment rates.
This data is from Systems 4PT outpatient rehab practices. It is notable that these practices have not paid extra for marketing tools, striving to increase patient volume. In fact, just the opposite, we advise our practices, “This is not a time for expensive consultants or gimmicks. Focus on the basics and protect your cash”. The growth noted above is the result of excellent practices, rebounding on the strength of their reputations and the relationships with their patients and referral sources.
What’s Happening With Telehealth?
Since April, the number of telehealth encounters in outpatient rehab have noticeably declined. A counterintuitive surprise: While COVID diagnoses have skyrocketed in October and November, treatment volume increased, but telehealth encounters DECREASED.
Several possible explanations: Our practices tell us that patients appreciate the difference between hands-on physical therapy / occupational therapy vs. a zoom session.
This is very good news. It should not surprise anyone that patients appreciate hands-on therapy. Practice owners also report that, “Since March we’ve all somewhat become infectious disease experts. We’ve proven that we can deliver hands-on therapy while keeping our patients and our staff safe”.
Since February, Systems 4PT has taken responsibility for getting our practices’ telehealth claims paid. We take care of the special codes, modifiers and other bizarre requirements. Systems 4PT’s advice regarding telehealth is simple: “Your job is to safely treat the patient. Our job is to get the telehealth claim paid. We’re responsible”. Likewise, we advise our practices to avoid the onslaught of newcomer telehealth related products, gadgets, gimmicks and experts. Again, “guard your cash”.
Jaw-Dropping Cancellation Rates
Our next unexpected datapoint came from an analysis of patient cancellations. During October and MTD November, (During the spike in COVID diagnoses), cancellation rates have been 25% lower than normal.
Practice owners notice (and appreciate) this trend and have different theories. One theory is: “If the patient has a serious enough need to come to therapy during a pandemic, they dedicate to their treatment routine”. Another theory we’ve heard is: “In the new normal, physical therapy and occupational therapy relieve both pain and boredom. ‘Live at home, work from home, don’t leave home!’, people enjoy getting out for a legitimate, necessary reason.”
The Impact of New Lockdowns
While Outpatient Rehab has always been categorized as an essential service, we’ll be closely watching those states that have recently mandated the return of lockdowns of non-essential services. Baring hospital capacity constraints, even these most-stringent states have advised that non-essential surgeries will continue.
Check back with us next month.
This is a wild ride . . . that none of us want to be on.
You are doing a FANTASTIC JOB keeping your patients safe while keeping your staff safe. Always remember: Complacency is the enemy!
More than ever, you are making a meaningful difference in your patients’ lives. Living with pain is unacceptable. But living with pain, at home, solitary, with no distractions, that’s torture. Your skill is more needed than ever.
And as previously stated, as cash flow rebounds, HOLD ONTO THAT CASH! The successes quantified above have been achieved without unusual investments.
Focus on what you do so well. You change and improve your patient’s lives. You put the smiles back on their faces.
And in these times, not many people can say that!
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