A physical therapy clinic’s business model isn’t usually something the patient is concerned with. Mostly patients want to know what kind of treatments physical therapist will provide, are they in network with their insurance, and how often they will have to be seen. These surface questions are important, but I believe don’t go far enough into finding out if this is the right physical therapy clinic for them. The business model of how a physical therapist will be seeing patients can greatly affect how the patient is treated.

I recently had a patient come into the clinic with symptoms after an arthroscopic knee surgery that have long outstayed their welcome. This is someone that had surgery three months ago, has already had two months of physical therapy on a relatively straightforward postsurgical case. By all accounts, this person should be better and physical therapy should be in the rearview miror. First, I have to check off the obvious boxes:

Was there any new event or injury to the affected knee? “No.”
Were there any complications that you are aware of? “No.”
Where you doing things against the doctor’s plan of care? “No.”

Now I dive a little deeper:
Where did you have physical therapy? “.”
What did you guys do? “A little stretching, strengthening, but mostly I worked by myself”
You worked by yourself? “My therapist was very nice, but he worked with two or three different patients at a time. I didn’t have any manual work, and barely had any stretching.”
How many visits did you go for? “Almost 20 visits.”
How much did it cost you out-of-pocket for each visit? “About $35.”

Diagnosis: This patient is suffering from a physical therapy business model problem. I’m sure the physical therapist that this patient saw was competent, caring and genuinely wanted to get the patient better. But a physical therapy clinic’s overhead will dictates how physical therapists interact with patients in the clinic. The higher the overhead, the more patient volume is needed. This model allowed (and maybe encouraged) the patient’s double and triple booking by the physical therapist. Effectively, this practice waters down her care. In the meantime, she continued to pay full price for her physical therapy visit. This physical therapy clinic did not allow their therapists to take the time to treat each patient individually, come up with a plan, address the patients concerns and questions efficiently, and that’s a problem. That’s a major problem the cost this poor patient time and money. She at the time and effort from the physical therapist she deserved to get better and address her needs.

There are a ton the physical therapy clinics in Chicago. I encourage patients to ask questions that will help find the right physical therapy clinic for them. Be sure to ask:

How many patients do your physical therapists see per hour?
Do you double book appointments? Meaning are patients coming in for the same appointment slot?
What is the atmosphere of the clinic?

Core Physical Therapy believes in quality visits over quantity visits. I want patients to fully grasp their condition, have an understanding of how to best manage, and have a clear plan to resolve their pathology. Above all, I want patients to have an unrushed, uninterrupted dialogue with a physical therapist every visit. When a physical therapist can give you a more personalized experience each visit, you get a better value for your healthcare dollar, you get better faster, and you save money.

I’m looking forward to getting this patient better in less than 8 visits. ?

– Jason Kart, PT, DPT