The Clinical Balancing Act: Providing the Ideal Patient Experience in 2024 • Posts by EIM | Evidence In Motion Skip To Content

The Clinical Balancing Act: Providing the Ideal Patient Experience in 2024

April 19, 2024 • Research • Heidi Jannenga

As I returned home from another exciting Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) in Boston, MA, I found myself thinking about the delicate art of the clinical balancing act of patient and provider expectations, and how it has changed over the years. As rehab therapists navigate a complex web of technological advancements, patient expectations, and evolving practice dynamics, the pursuit of the ideal practice experience takes center stage. 

With the patient experience focal to any successful healthcare business, let’s delve into the nuanced dance between technology and compassionate, patient-centered care, and find out how these two topics are interconnected and essential to finding the ideal practice experience.

What Are Today’s Patients Looking For?

We continue to see accelerations in healthcare trends in 2024 that are still—in large part—a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Overnight, consumers (i.e., patients) were thrust into a world where the primary form of communication and service was digital, not in-person. The ability to seek care, receive care, and pay for care from the comfort of one’s couch has become a mainstay in patients’ minds, and much of the current data reflects just that. 

Ease of Access

In a recent report, Consumer Affairs found that 97% of Americans own a cell phone, and a 2023 report from ZocDoc found that two-thirds of patients are booking appointments via a mobile device. If they aren’t already, physical therapy clinics must have a mobile-friendly website—which should offer easy online access to explore services provided and to schedule appointments. Making it easier to understand what a typical visit might look like, which therapist would be best to schedule with, and what insurance or payment options best fit their budget not only meets patients’ expectations, it also helps to remove the obstacles that may prevent disenfranchised and at-risk populations from accessing PT services.

The Digital Front Door

Gone are the days of patients looking forward to sitting in a crowded waiting room to fill out paperwork—paperwork they likely already did several times over at other medical professionals’ offices. And while some patients might prefer a friendly phone call to schedule an appointment a week or two in advance, most don’t have time to sit on hold while they’re at work. In this fast-paced, tech-centric world we live in, patients are looking for a digital front door long before they enter through a physical one. The access to quick on-demand answers and instantaneous results in other industries (think salon appointments or gym classes) has spilled over into health care, and clinics must stay up with the times.

In WebPT and Clinicient’s The PT Patient Experience Report—released in 2022—we highlighted some of these factors and trends. From that report’s patient respondents, we found some heavy trends favoring digital front doors to the tune of:

  • 61% prefer to schedule online when not scheduling in person;
  • 81% prefer digital reminders, with texting as the top choice;
  • 79% prefer to fill out intake paperwork at home, digitally; and
  • 70% prefer to pay with a digital option.


Additionally, ZocDoc released a similar report that, while looking more broadly across all disciplines and providers, does offer some highlights we can utilize for PT. To start, let’s review what many of us already know: patients like their PTs. In the report, physical therapy had an 86% loyalty rate for rebookings—6% above the average amongst other healthcare providers. 

As I mentioned above, 66% of appointments are booked via mobile device, with mobile users accounting for 20% more bookings than desktop users. However, timing can matter as much as convenience; 47% of those appointments took place within four days of them being booked, making the relative urgency of “right-now” availability a real deal for clinics.

Delving deeper into the digital front door, another interesting statistic was that 48% of patients booked appointments after hours. This makes the need for an online presence—complete with online scheduling options—that much more important. But what do these statistics mean for patient-centered care?

Patient-Centered Care

Although patient-centered care is a phrase that falls in and out of favor, it has regained a renewed sense of urgency lately. With the shortage of providers and the ever-mounting administrative burden, too many of our patients are made to feel like just a number in line for insurance claims which is compounded by the struggle of PTs to find the time to connect more deeply with patients. It’s not for a lack of interest on our part—it’s the inefficiencies existing in our current clinic workflows sans the use of technology to alleviate many of those redundant and mundane tasks that are essential for financial stability. 

Coordination of Care

While at CSM this year, I had the pleasure of speaking to a great audience about our current pipeline problem and technology’s place in the clinic. The response was overwhelmingly positive on wanting to adopt technology tools to improve provider productivity and clinic efficiency. The area that was of high interest was interoperability for the coordination of care with referring physicians and other stakeholders. From referrals to digital messaging, and seamless communication with the care team, neither the patients nor the physicians are looking to have a paper trail in today’s digital world.

Let’s say goodbye to the days of patients curtly asking, “Didn’t I already give you that information?” and hello to conversations where the patient feels valued and listened to. Let’s use technology to get important test results, referrals, and insurance verifications done quickly so that providers can maximize their clinical time with patients.

Personal Touches in Clinical Care

Although much of what I discuss tends to focus on technology and its utility to the rehab therapy industry, I cannot understate how important it is for providers to remain invested in providing a personal experience for patients. The therapeutic alliance and hands-on modalities provided by rehab therapists are something that no computer can ever compete with. 

It all starts when a patient walks in the door. A warm welcome goes a long way (think Starbucks where everyone gets welcomed in and your name called when your order is ready). But what more is there besides a simple greeting? What about your clinic’s “vibe”? At CSM, one of the Private Practice Section presentations honed in on this subject. The gang from PT Revolution took some time to show attendees—in detail—how a clinic’s vibe fits so intricately into the overall patient experience, which can be done without the use of technology. By going beyond just a great company culture and leaning into an amazing vibe for your practice, patients will remember, connect with, return to, and be more likely to share their experiences with their friends and family.

 We have talked at length about the importance of a clinic’s culture being reflective of your values, and weaving that into everything you do from the job descriptions and performance reviews to how the phones are answered with customer service. And when you can connect and include your community as a stakeholder in your business, you can create a vibe—and niche—around the engagement activities you value most. 

Delivery of Patient-Desired Outcomes

At the end of the day, your vibe can be pleasing, but the patient experience is going to be affected the most by patients’ outcomes and billing experience. However, we as a profession are still not collecting outcome measures on every patient regardless of insurance requirements. As value-based care becomes increasingly relevant, the use of outcome measurement tools and payment for quality is going to become more of a reality. Digitization has accelerated the integration of data into the decision-making process by insurance companies and adjusters for visit utilization and provider preference.

Thus, using a Practice Experience Management (PXM) platform that provides patient engagement and outcome aggregation from start to finish must be part of your clinical workflow—and frankly part of the vibe of your clinic in terms of delivering great patient outcomes. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” to quote Peter Drucker. It’s a must on both sides of the equation—engagement and transparency of progress with the patients, and demonstration of value to insurance companies. Outcome measures provide a win for everyone.

Will You Find Clinical Equilibrium?

As the landscape of healthcare continues to evolve, physical therapy clinics find themselves at a pivotal point in our evolution as an industry – the intersection of tradition and innovation. Embracing the power of integrated technology is not just a choice but a necessity to enhance the ideal patient experience now demands a seamless integration of both personalized care and cutting-edge tools—that’s PXM. 

As the PT profession navigates into this new era, it is crucial for providers—and their technology partners—to rise to the challenge, embracing advancements that not only streamline processes but also elevate the quality of care with the ultimate goal being to ensure every patient receives the best possible experience on their path to recovery. 

Heidi Jannenga

Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC, is the co-founder and Chief Clinical Officer of WebPT, the leading practice management solution for physical, occupational, and speech therapists. Heidi advises on WebPT’s product vision, company culture, branding efforts and internal operations, while advocating for the rehab therapy profession on a national and international scale. She’s an APTA member,...

––– Related Items

––– Post a Comment

— All comments subject to approval

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up for news

Join the EIM Mailing List to receive next level updates on research, news, and educational offerings.