Managing productivity requires walking a tight rope between meeting the needs of your patients and maintaining the financial stability of your facility. Changes in reimbursement and referral sources have most rehabilitation providers trying to do more with less. To maintain a successful practice, physical and occupational therapists and their assistants, as well as speech language pathologists, must excel at both sides of this issue. Maximizing how you spend your time during the workday and learning to be as efficient as possible is a skill that isn’t taught in school, and comes with experience.
Productivity can be an emotional topic for PT, OT, and SLP professionals, especially when productivity expectations become unrealistic or a cause of stress. Being held accountable for the quantity of billable units, patients per day, or productivity percentages can add a great deal of pressure to their jobs. Quality of care is also an important factor in any facility’s success, as it affects patient satisfaction and referrals.
By understanding the factors that affect productivity, Therapists can take steps to determine realistic expectations and find ways to minimize stress. Focusing on excellent patient care while maintaining productivity can be accomplished. Efficient allied health professionals make wise choices and promote teamwork in their departments. You can help ensure patients give your practice rave reviews and keep returning, while contributing to the financial success of your facility.
Factors Affecting Productivity
Some of the factors that can affect your productivity as a therapist are within your control, while other are not. You have no control over the following:
- Facility Census
- Facility Layout – distance between patients.
- Timeliness of patients to appointments.
- The frequency of cancellations and no-shows.
- Efficiency of the documentation system (does your facility use paper or electronic records?).
- Productivity Measurement Tools – These will vary based on your setting.
The key is working within your circumstances, whatever they may be, to maximize treatment time.
Tips and Tools for Working More Efficiently
Productivity for all therapists is related to meeting or exceeding your facility’s goals for patient load and visits per day and week. This is related to how you manage your time with your patients, as well as how satisfied your patients are with the care they receive, and how likely they are to return to your practice. To work more efficiently and build great client rapport each day, here’s what you can do:
- Learn from Experienced Therapists. Each facility has unique shortcuts. Seek wisdom and counsel from experienced therapists. Ask them to share their “tricks”. Expert therapists learn their facility and what shortcuts best help them meet productivity expectations.
- Stay on track during your appointments. If a visit goes over its time limit, this can have a domino effect and upset the next scheduled patients. Do your best to keep moving through procedures at a reasonable pace, especially with patients who are extra chatty.
- Remind patients of their next appointment. Every time you see a patient, make a point of confirming your next appointment. Reminders prevent miscommunication and help patients arrive on time and ready to work.
- Schedule time at the end of every appointment for charting. Even taking just five minutes while a treatment session is fresh in your mind can help prevent hours of documentation at the end of your day. It can also give you a sense of accomplishment and help you stay motivated.
- Document throughout the treatment session in short little bursts of 30- 45 seconds while someone is performing an exercise. Remember to excuse yourself from your patient with a comment like, “Please excuse me just for a minute while I put this in the computer, so I don’t forget it,” to avoid communicating inattention during your concurrent documentation.
- Use a time management app. Although these tools take time to use, planning saves time in the long run, and these apps can be adapted to organize your work schedule. Great time management apps include Evernote, which allows you to keep track of meetings and appointments; Focus Booster, which is designed to help you avoid procrastination and get focused; and Wunderlist, offers a to-do list that can help you organize all work and life tasks.
Please share your knowledge and experience
What have your experiences as a therapist taught you about productivity? What productivity standards have you found to be realistic for the subacute setting? For an outpatient clinic? For a home health setting? Any other facilities? What tricks do you use to keep patient care “Front and Center,” while also keeping a close eye on the clock?
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