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How To Reduce Patient Dropout

Updated: Jul 7, 2022

You’ve Probably Heard It Before…

9 out of 10 PT patients drop out before completing their full course of care.

Getting patients through the door to begin with is difficult enough. After investing the time and effort to do that, dropout prior to discharge can really hurt your bottom line.

Because of this, it’s essential to focus on patient retention. It’s 5 times cheaper to retain an existing patient than acquire a new patient, and a 5% increase in patient retention can lead to a 25% increase in revenue.

One of the main indicators for patient dropout is low adherence to a Home Exercise Program (HEP). Low adherence can lead to limited/no progress, which is a recipe for an unhappy patient that’s ready to drop out of rehab!

In order to maximize patient retention, we have to think about how to keep patients adherent to their HEP. Better adherence ensures that therapy stays top of mind. This means better outcomes, fewer missed appointments, and more discharges instead of dropouts.

So, How Do You Keep Patients Adherent?

Here are 3 great ways to maximize patient adherence to their Home Exercise Programs:

Focusing the patient on their goals prevents drop out

Establish The Link Between Hep Completion And Your Patients’ Therapy Goals

To PTs, it’s obvious that an HEP is designed to help a patient meet their therapy goals. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case for patients. If a patient is not convinced their Home Exercise Program is effective, they are significantly more likely to stop adhering.

A great tactic is to tell people how the exercises will help.

This method is called the mechanism approach for behavioral modification. If a patient comes to you with back pain, simply telling them to stretch their hip flexors will only get you so far. It’s much more effective to explain that tight hip flexors cause overarching of the back, leading to tightness and pain.

Even if a patient doesn’t fully understand the science, it will still increase the likelihood that they adhere to their HEP.

Create Structure and Track Patient Progress

Patients are busy, and a lot of them are not used to exercising on a daily basis. Adding an HEP to their daily routine may be difficult. It includes a bit of a lifestyle change. It’s important to get them to start thinking about incorporating exercise into their daily schedule before they leave the clinic.

When you are giving a patient their HEP, ask them about their daily routine. This conversation will help a patient understand when they can realistically complete their routine on a day-to-day basis.

As part of this conversation, make sure to give the patients ideas on how to track their progress. This will help improve their self-efficacy and give them immediate feelings of accomplishment.

Tracking HEP progress is even more effective if the PT is involved! Accountability has a massive impact on behavioral change. For a patient, simply the knowledge that their PT can track their HEP completion history can be the difference in them doing their exercises or not.

One of the best ways to do this is to…

Use an Effective HEP platform

These days, a piece of paper just won’t cut it. To truly keep patients engaged, we need to use 21st-century technology. This means delivering HEPs through an effective platform.

Here are some features to look for:

  • Exercise Videos – Videos are much more effective than pictures in explaining how to do an exercise correctly. If a patient is doing the exercise incorrectly, they may not see progress and drop out of care.

  • Messaging System – Having a messaging portal will not only help patients get important rehab questions answered, but communicates to patients that you’re truly with them for their entire journey through rehab.

  • Gamification – A platform that gives patients digital trophies, medals, and awards can be a great way to positively reinforce completion of their Home Exercise Program.

  • Mobile App Option – It’s way more convenient to be able to access a Home Exercise Program from a mobile app. This platform is even more powerful if the app is branded with your clinic name and logo, like our PT Wired Plus branded mobile apps.

“To Truly Keep Patients Engaged, We Need To Use 21st-century Technology”

To Summarize… Dropout Can Be Prevented!

In the business world, companies have to excite their customers after a purchase to avoid buyer’s remorse. In the same way, it’s up to us as therapists to keep patients excited about their care plan.

Implement the following 3 tactics to maximize patient adherence to Home Exercise Programs:

  1. Make sure patients associate the completion of their Home Exercise Program with the attainment of their rehab goals

  2. Have patients track their own progress, but it’s your job to make it EASY and to hold them accountable!

  3. Use a Home Exercise Program platform that has the features you need to maximize patient engagement

Keeping a patient engaged in this way will ensure they get to discharge rather than dropout. Want to see how our PT Wired app helps maximize patient engagement?Click here to book a demo

About The Author:

Vikram is a leading expert in physical therapy technology & the founder of PT Wired, the only 100% custom-branded mobile app service for physical therapy practices.

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