Sunday, September 27, 2015

What Keeps the Physical Therapist Away?

Sarah makes a good point! If anything, healthcare needs a lot more involvement, input, and access to & from physical therapists. Nevertheless, the reason I came up with this was due to the old saying:

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

In a sense, the saying states that proper dietary input keeps the medical doctor away. Taking care of what you put into your body is, in a sense, the job-to-be-done and subsequent brand image of physicians. For the most part, this is consistent in the marketplace. Healthcare consumers see physicians in their offices, get prescriptions to drugs, then ingest said drugs some manner. Since the patients didn't have an apple a day, they end up having a pill-a-day instead.

All this made me wonder, what is the generalized job-to-be-done by a physical therapist? From this perspective, what is our brand image?

Well, I put it out there and here are some of the responses:
  • A backward bend a day keeps the PT away.
  • A plank a day keeps the PT away.
  • A 30 minute walk a day keeps the PT away
  • A DEEP SQUAT a day keeps the PT away.
  • A new insurance regulation a day keeps the PT away. (Oops. Wrong angle...)
  • A high copay a day keeps the PT away.
  • A get up a day keeps the PT away.
  • A good prescription of exercises and proper nutrition keeps the PT away.
  • A bad rehabilitation experience keeps the great PT away.
  • A [less sedentary society] keeps the PT away.
While these were in no particular order or significance, I did represent the majority of response typologies in their respective frequencies. Nevertheless, what should be abundantly apparent is that exercise or physical activity seems to be what keeps the PT away. Of course, I did enjoy some of the entertaining back-end perspectives of bad insurance, bad health policy, and a bad management experience which would otherwise keep the PT away.

So, what do we glean from this casual exercise (ha-ha, no pun intended)?

Well, I'd suggest that our expertise and the value we bring to healthcare needs to further align with exercise as medicine, or as some have proposed, movement as medicine (which I still feel isn't the most salient word to be used).

Perhaps more importantly, it needs to be communicated to the healthcare consumer that exercise is the medicine for ailments of physical health. To this, the symptoms of poor physical health are pain and inhibited mobility; be it limitations in locomotion, joint related concerns, balance, or the basic control of your physical faculties (shoutout to #PelvicMafia & Pelvic PT).

There is a lot of consumer outreach to be done. However, this may not be a bad place to start anew. It certainly agrees with the outpatient physical therapy industry analysis I performed a while back -- that exercise is our most salient value proposition to the marketplace.

"Why not lobby to protect the prescription of exercise for healthcare and disease management as something truly unique, only to be given by the physical therapist?"

It's a thought... and, it's a thought based on the consumer's perspective and the payer's perspective. Maybe, we as providers need to start paying attention to this as a professional culture. What does the consumer see as clinically cool? Rather than, what we are interested in.


So then, going back above, "An apple a day keeps the (medical) doctor away." If what we put into our bodies keeps the medical doctor away... maybe what we need to start branding is this:

What we do with our bodies keeps the (doctor of) PT away.

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