Sink or Swim Just as the Great Depression hit businesses hard, the “Great Pandemic” is shaping up to be a sink or swim period for many companies. Most physical therapy clinics have taken quite a hit during the COVID19 shutdowns and restrictions. As more and more clinics share their stories with us, we are seeing a trend emerge. About 20% of clinics are already swimming and bouncing back. Another 20% are sinking. They have chosen to stick their head in the sand, waiting for the problem to go away. Still the majority, about 60% of clinics, are just stuck. They want to find a solution and get business back on track, but they just don’t know what to do. These clinics are treading water, barely keeping their heads up, looking for a lifeline. Where does your clinic fall?
20% swimming - For the 20% of clinics that are bouncing back, they have committed to tackling the problem head on. They continue to look for innovative ways to bring in patients and serve the community. Much like the companies who thrived during the Great Depression, these clinics are pressing on, adding services, training staff, and marketing. During the Great Depression, consumers didn’t stop spending, they were just more selective on how they spent money. One might guess that entertainment, such as movie theaters, would be the first to fold, but many theaters were successful. To keep consumers coming in they had to make changes. Some offered a simple discount on tickets, but more innovative promotions included giving out a piece of dinnerware with each ticket. This had patrons returning week after week to collect the entire set. Some theaters offered a double feature, running "B movies". This change had the added benefit of helping to prop up small production companies that could bang out the B movies quickly.
20% sinking - Hopefully your clinic doesn’t fall into the 20% of “ostrich” clinics. If you’ve stuck your “head in the sand” waiting out this pandemic, then you may end sinking to the bottom. Of the three major cereal companies, Post is still at the bottom. General Mills, was actually founded during the Great Depression and is still number one today. Kellogg didn’t let the depression hider them; instead they operated business as usual and kept up advertising. Not only did it swing sales their way during the depression, but it brought them out ahead when the depression finally ended. Meanwhile, Post sat and waited out the depression. They even scaled back, making cuts in budgets and advertising. Post may have survived the Great Depression, but they certainly didn’t thrive. When spending started to pick up, consumers turned to the name they were familiar with, the company that was in front of them, the company that remained with them during the depression.
60% treading water - Most clinics fall into the 60% that know they need to take some action, but are not really sure what to do. Although restrictions are easing in many areas, life is not back to normal, and may not ever be “normal”. Clinics can’t keep treading water. The times are changing and if businesses don’t change too, they could sink. Look at the brewers during the Great Depression, they had some major hurdles to overcome. They not only faced pinched pockets, but throw in Prohibition and, all of a sudden, their product was not even legal. Simple marketing and discounts weren’t going to fix these problems; the brewers had to look at different avenues. Some changed directions and started dairies, sold meat or even opened dance halls. Some created alternative drinks such as root beer. Most modified their current process with one extra step and began brewing “near beer” which had a legal alcohol content of only 0.5% and kept revenue on tap.
For physical therapy clinics that are tired of treading water, it may mean analyzing your current services and your market. If you still have time on your hands, don’t let it go to waste. Start marketing. Spend your time making phone calls or visits to physicians, case managers, adjustors, even attorneys. Get your name in front of your consumers. Or use that spare time to get certified in a new service that will bring in additional revenue.
Many clinics are turning to the worker’s compensation market. With the continued changes and cuts in Medicare, clinics are looking for ways to reduce their reliance on Medicare. It makes sense to lean into WC, as more workers get back on the jobs. One of the simplest ways to capture revenue from WC referrals is by implementing return-to-work (RTW) screens. By adding this one extra step, a brief RTW test, to the discharge process, clinics are seeing thousands of dollars in revenue. A well-designed FCE system can give you, not only an objective RTW testing protocol, but versatility to offer other services such as FCEs, pre-hire physical ability testing, work conditioning.
Diversifying and pushing through the Great Depression gave brewers and many companies top spots in the market on the other side of the depression. While we don’t know how or when the pandemic will end or what permanent affect it will have, we are certain, that if you don’t want to sink, you better start swimming.
The ErgoScience FCE is a versatile, dependable tool for today’s uncertain clinic environment. Start swimming, call today.