In the last several weeks or so, I’ve noticed an increasing motif in social media chatter, private conversations, etc… and, it all centralizes on bridging “the gap,” linking the disconnect, and finding common grounds for mutual understanding. It’s a worthy discussion to be had & it tends to be a cyclical topic.
Usually, it starts with perspectives that are intra-professionally oriented, then inter-collegially; soon, it turns para-professionally and ultimately… we set our sights on the provider-to-consumer discourse. These discussions aren’t new. The solutions, for the most part remain the same. Still, there may be opportunities now, to make such connections better; and, to begin building bridges while collaborating in more circles and less rows, with both our healthcare allies as well as our general consumers.
Now, a quick preamble: As per the norm to my more challenging posts, I feel its important to first identify the gaps before we rush into a solution. By doing so, we can better craft a big picture approach that includes as many stakeholders as possible.
Bridging The Gap
1. The Value Gap.
Let me start off this post with a fun survey I posted on Facebook:
That breaks down to people having the following outlooks on our profession:
Despite such positivity: Year after year, we continually hear bellows of how terrible our payment systems have been, insurance companies are reimbursing less, people’s co-pays are getting higher and higher… etc, etc, etc. For as long as I can remember, there’s this value gap of fitness vs. physio, insurance vs. cash, then… that whole gambit of comparing ourselves to and with chiropractors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists.
The thing is, we still remain just shy of that 10% marketshare capture. Meaning, a little under 1/10 people who have movement & musculoskeletal needs, will ever eventually seek care (directly, referred, or otherwise) from a Physical Therapist. This, was a heavy point of fact that we were able to document, in person, during the APTA’s Private Practice Section conference in Las Vegas… touring the strip asking, “What would you do if you had low back pain?”
The funny thing is: study after study within a wide range of medical and scientific journals, we are proving that Physical Therapists bring value and contain healthcare costs. We are found in outpatient clinics, in the emergency department, throughout hospitals, in homes for home health, in rehab/inpatient facilities… we treat any range of concerns revolving around the movement system including your general aches & pains, post-surgical conditions, dizziness & vertigo, the pelvic floor; all from skill sets and abilities from bed bound into the elite human performance populations such as olympic athletes.
Yet, with so much breadth… why is it that we have so much seeming lack in depth? At least… as far as it concerns the general consumer? AND, why is it, that despite having the most sophisticated training and educational systems, now at the doctoral level… that we still struggle with communicating our value to the same general consumer?
That GAP! Why…?????
2. The Gap In Colleagues
The Physical Therapy profession, as we know it in the USA, has undergone many historical evolutions. Our identity is mixed, and, we don’t exactly hail with the same cultural values as international Physios. That said, it hasn’t been easy connecting with each other as colleagues. First, it was the RPT. Then, the BSPT came out. Then, the MSPT. THEN, the DPT. Annnnnnd… the whole time, it was always seasoned clinician vs. new grads, setting vs. setting, evidence vs. experience… etc, etc, etc.
Yeah. I went there.
Don’t worry. I’ll address it, later 😉
Meanwhile, many of us are trying to network and engage in social media conversation in constructive threads… or, so we hope. Inevitably, something will go sour & it reminds me of PT version of this:
3. The Community Involvement Gap
At #APTACSM, we talked a LOT about being a professional of the community. Sadly, I’ve only heard of entities doing this & have yet to witness for myself: PTs bringing a presence in the local K-12 schools, at community health fair, at the county/state fair, or even at a block party.
I’ve been advocating a LONG TIME for PTs to get into the K-12 circles for the same reasons dentists started there, many years ago.
Sure… you “lose time.” But, truly… don’t think of donating time as a cost. Think of it as an investment. Openly and warmly giving to people who are more than willing to give the same level of investment back to you. After all, that’s called goodwill. And… not EVERYTHING, even in business… is about individual-1-to-1 ROI correlations.
Want someone else’s take? How about Gary Vaynerchuk’s. [Warning: F-Bombs Ahead! Watch: “GIVE more than you GET … that’s how U win”]
4. The Social Media Gap
Speaking of “giving” and connecting with communities: How about connecting with them through the frequencies which they do most of their social interactions? Can I get a #SocialPT?! (I really hope you read that as, “hashtag-social-P-T?!”)
Okay, so here’s the deal. I asked on several platforms where our PT colleagues like to hangout on social media. Here are the results. Now of course, by platforms, there will be some native biases… but, you get the picture:
First, no surprise… Facebook users love Facebook.
Then, Linked In. People like the political free, professional oriented zone in LI.
Finally, Twitter. Twitter had the greatest mix.
Begging the question: WHY ARE WE NOT CONVERSING WITH CONSUMERS?
We need to be part of THEIR conversations. As helpful & important as it is getting our profession’s hashtags trending… what will be even better is getting healthcare consumer topic thoroughly addressed on a consistent basis. So much so, that all things movement, musculoskeletal, pain, and, physical health & wellness becomes dominantly a public discussion driven by Physical Therapists on CONSUMER ORIENTED channels, threads, and hashtags… free from gimmicky click bait; simply connecting as human beings, delivering value as professionals of the community.
How do we do this? Begin by kindly answering the many questions out there… and, there are a lot of questions out there. Besides, are we not a doctoring profession?
5. The Job Market Gap
Dun. Dun. DUUUUN! Yep. I’m going here, too.
Economists have long identified Millennials as the highest educated, lowest paid age group… ever. Physical Therapists are no exception during this time. Never have PTs ever been so highly trained, yet… seemingly, have such poor earning potential.
How is it possible that we are pumping out Doctors of Physical Therapy, with 6-figures of debt, and half the earning potential?!
It isn’t just an age thing, or an experience thing, or a loyalty thing, or a time-put-in-kinda-thang… the problem is we are trying to sustain an operating philosophy that is no longer congruent nor valid with current social cultures and economic norms (NOR… is it simply a reflection of hard times). I’ve spoken with many Millennials and career changers who all came down the road of, “Get into school and you’ll be fine.”
But, THEN what?!
How we find ourselves fitting into the job market, be it as employer or employee, ultimately justifies the amount of time, effort, passion, sweat, blood, years, and tremendous amount of dollars spent… to what we attribute as “our calling.”
This is where the disconnect get’s crazy:
Likely due to how much debt DPT new grads have incurred, along with the social perception of making 6-figures AND how that plays into being a doctor… many are claiming that new grads are asking for too much from businesses and organizations that can only afford too little.
THEN AGAIN… according to the data we have from the PT Job Market Pulse, Q1 of 2017 was the highest paying EVER for outpatient practices of all sizes. Reasons explained in the Pulse periodical 😉
When you combine that fact along with the 2016 DPT Talent Acquisition Report & the 2016 DPT Private Practice Human Resource Report, these sentiments of disconnect are a true reflection of where healthcare has found itself unsustainable form a human resource standpoint.
We can’t simply pay people for being.
Oh yeah… I even went THERE.
It’s important that we talk about this because OUR CONSUMERS have been discussing this for ages.
Professionals bill for their services under their license, not their years of company loyalty or industry experience. Consumers are figuring that out; and, insurance companies have always known that any single factor (such as experience) doesn’t equate superior clinical outcomes (whether it be short term or in elevating the human capital of an entire population pool); nor does it yield highly rated patient satisfaction composites.
Experience, exposure, loyalty, CEUs, degrees, certifications… what matters is PERFORMANCE. Performance is measurable and while there is undeniable value behind a lifetime built upon mastery of a craft… that mastery still need to be put to the test and PROVEN. Once proven, such champions must be elevated to lead the charge & publicly supported by colleagues in doing so.
All the above: It’s not me that’s saying it. It’s our customers. It’s our healthcare consumers and our 3rd party payers. THEY, want it. THEY want the proof… that WE, are worth it. How else can be prove it, other than carefully collected data from both objective standpoints and consumer perspectives?
This is the economic vector by which healthcare is now aggressively molding itself into a value based marketplace. It’s not new. I’ve personally blogged on the matter for quite some time; and, given free content to help organizations who wish to be on the leading edge (as found in this blog post: Value Based Pay & part of the FREE UpDoc Media Business Collection). For months, companies have been operating at a loss, gobbling up fresh PT talent & shifting their employee compensation packages to a value based system in preparation for valued based healthcare economics.
Still… it’s not the reports, the news, or anything else that should fully sway… CMS has been planning this for years! If you’re not already in preparations… there is much to be done. After all…
“Luck favors the prepared.”
Okay. So Now What?!
I’m sure you’ll recall that I readily promote people to complain AS LONG AS they come with SOLUTIONS!
Annnnnnd… In the beginning of the post, I made mention that there are great opportunities to connect with our consumers, with each other, and with our allies & stakeholders… opportunities to build bridges and collaborate through more circles and less rows. To this, in a keynote last year, I proposed that the Inspired Professional is an expert of their craft, a consummate advocate, and an empowering colleague. I believe that this is where solutions begin.
- As expert of their craft, the inspired professional promotes only the best in clinical practice, regardless of the financial implications. As doctors, we must hold ourselves to the highest standards and expectations. As providers, we must hold the interests of the people we serve, higher than our own. We owe ourselves that much; and, those whom we serve, deserve only the best.
- As a consummate advocate, the inspired professional must hold heavy interest into the legislative and political dynamics that govern the practice act and license through which they provide. This means active communication with the aides and staff of politician offices. This means financial support to the lobbies various organizations hire, to make sure problems over the horizon stay that way — and, never come to bear. Sometimes, this means marching on the Capitol.
- As an empowering colleague, the inspired professional is not caught up with infighting nor intra-competitive inclinations. Rather, the inspired professional is a seasoned collaborator and seeks only to ensure that the following generation of professionals find more growth & more success than ever before.
For the inspired professional, it’s not about them. It’s about the legacy being built. The legacy they pass on to the coming generation of colleagues & the stories told of lives made better through mastery of clinical care, en masse.
I believe that a culture shift is already happening and it is our job to accelerate its maturity. No longer is it good enough to be complacent with the status quo, to regard our profession as “a job,” nor to become stagnant in our pursuit of excellence. As much as we may never stop caring, it is VERY easy to get comfortable. And, when people get comfortable… we stop moving. If anything, that, is the existential anti-thesis of what it means to be a Physical Therapy professional.
My exhortation and challenge to you is this. If this post and content of like-minded-threads; be it via podcast, video, social media, or otherwise… if it lights a fire within you:
- Share the passion you have. To your co-workers, colleagues, classmates, family, friends, neighbors… it should be exuding through your soul! Encourage them to join this journey of culture change.
- Make a commitment to converse with the consumer. Imagine if weekly, every physical therapist and physical therapist assistant took to the social platform of their choosing; joined a public consumer conversation; and, shared a patient victory story of how PT changes lives. And, if you can’t find the conversations, simply use your own handles to broadcast such stories!
- Promise yourself to elevate the excellent. It is too easy to be destructive and negative. It is too easy to trod down on “the bad.” Rather, as the inspired professional elevate the good & outcompete any hope of “the bad” seeing daylight. It is through such methods that entire cultures are changed.
- Finally, hold true to your value and the value of your profession. All too often, we see PTs and PT companies capitulate and devalue the profession in all too many ways. Since late 2015, nearly every rehab business conference I’ve attended has held a theme within our industry leaders to hold the line and press forward! To say “NO!” to bad contracts, bad employment opportunities, bad clinical arrangements, and bad business decisions. So much is gained by holding true. And, I think more people take notice, than we give them credit for.
With that… let me first thank you for hanging tough to the end of this monster post. Let me also thank you for being part of the solution. Whether you agree with any of the above, the fact you are willing to read it and entertain a cross-collaboration of thoughts and ideas…. that, in and of itself, means you are part of the solution.
So, I’ll call it there and “Fin.”
Until next time, I remain yours in service,