After an illness or injury, Physical Therapy (PT) can be absolutely clutch for getting patients back in shape and able to resume their normal lives. At times, PT becomes a bridge to a “new normal” when full recovery isn’t possible, but improvement is. The willingness to comply and stick with the therapy care plan is never higher than upon referral, when another provider familiar with the patient’s condition has recommended this course of action, and when the patient is motivated to continue care for their given ailment or injury. However, willingness (and certainly enthusiasm) wane quickly if the hand-off is botched or there is just too much friction to make PT possible. It’s vital that we support therapy providers and their administrative staff in streamlining the referral management process for Physical Therapy to increase the likelihood that patients will not only see their plan through…but that they’ll even start in the first place.

Failure To Launch Beyond the Front Desk

We’ve talked before about how much of an administrative burden that therapy providers and clinics face. The time spent on a per-patient basis just shuffling paperwork to and fro leaves many providers wishing they had more time to serve patients, and leaves patients waiting weeks to months for appointments that are time-sensitive in nature. Starting Physical Therapy on a timely basis after surgery, injury, or illness can make a big difference in preserving range of motion, reducing scar tissue, and gaining strength necessary to actually recover for normal, day-to-day activities. Waiting on paperwork is frustrating and potentially harmful, and it’s hard to believe this is still an issue in 2023.

Leveraging electronic means for receiving, triaging, and managing Physical Therapy referrals provides significant benefit for everyone on the care team by eliminating time-consuming manual processes, as well as establishes a digital pathway for exchanging information after care has taken place and a therapy plan is underway. Therapy doesn’t have to be a “black hole” beyond referral; equipping the referring provider with timely updates and feedback also enhances the therapeutic benefit of the treatment, bringing a more holistic experience for the patient under a unified, in-the-know care team.

Referral Management as A Key Use Case in Healthcare Communication

Communication is key for patient compliance with their therapy care plan, and it starts with the referral process. Knowing who is caring for them, what they should expect, to what extent they have (or don’t have) insurance coverage for services, and how often they will need to work the providers in-office or execute their plan in-home is vital information for rehabilitation success. It’s worth repeating that the onset of care is a critical time for engaging the patient to exercise all their options for wellness, so a smooth transition to PT is make-or-break type stuff. A patient waiting for an appointment over a month (or more) since meeting with their referring provider is likely going to be less enthusiastic the further they get from the idea, and when that hold up is due to paperwork and administrative hoop-jumping, we simply have to tap into a smarter way. Everything else in our lives has become incredibly convenient and lighting fast…it’s high time we bring some of that timeliness and service to healthcare.