The Ultimate PT Metric: Completed Plan of Care

What is the right metric to use in order to measure a physical therapist’s success? Ask this question to a group of PTs during happy hour, and you will ignite a heated debate. Are clinical outcomes the only benchmarks that matter? What about their ability to deliver affordable care? And what about how effectively they inspire patient buy in that drives word of mouth referrals?

The answer is a bit of all of the above. After spending two decades of my life as a physical therapist, clinic owner, and educator, I believe that the Holy Grail of all PT success metrics is “Completed Plan of Care.” This is both a measure of clinical success (outcomes) and a metric that can reflect on the business (money in the bank).

The “Completed Plan of Care” metric makes some PTs nervous. I understand their concern since time and visit metrics can be biased towards over or under treating. But if built around a therapist’s true expertise, which is engaging a patient to identify and believe in their own goals, this shouldn’t be the case.

We Are Not Movement Experts

Don’t be confused. Physical therapists are not movement experts. We’re experts in listening and developing a plan to get someone to their goals. That is our true expertise, and the Completed Plans of Care metric puts our ability to engage patients to the test.

Let’s think about this a bit. We listen to the patient. We identify what’s most important to them (their goals) and then we go about testing, treating and setting them on a path to achieve those goals. At the same time, we are building the therapeutic alliance with them so that they will be on board with and an active participant in their care. We do this every day, and this is where our expertise lies. This is what we need to leverage in both the clinic and the business side.

Ultimate PT Accountability

I love the inherent accountability that comes with the Completed Plan of Care metric. If the Physical Therapist is aware that Completion of the Plan of Care is THE metric, then they will focus all of their efforts towards its success. This means managing no shows and cancels as a sign of non-compliance to the Plan of Care. It also means PTs will be bought into ensuring treatments are scheduled with the right frequency and that no financial conversation confuses or alienates a patient.

When the Completed Plan of Care is established as the overarching measurement of a PTs success, a physical therapist becomes present on the clinic team to troubleshoot anything that could jeopardize that plan’s success. It is the ultimate driver of PT accountability – and the end result is worth it.

Now we know a PT Plan of Care is dynamic, and should be updated as needed. That’s fine, as long as we are constantly guiding it with our expertise in motivational coaching and listening. The Plan of Care’s objective is to measure progress toward a patient’s self-identified goals. And yes, if someone is discharged to another health care provider for their expertise, then that’s a success too.

Patients that Finish Therapy, Refer to Therapy

A completed Plan of Care will lead to what I call a Happy Patient. These patients met their goals, experienced satisfaction from their experience and are now likely to tell their friends, family members and other healthcare providers about YOU! So those who wanna argue lost revenue on visits will see that it’s more than made up through the increase in new patients calling the office.

How do you best measure physical therapist success? Is it also through your Completed Plan of Care rate or something else? Leave some feedback in the comments below and let’s continue this conversation.

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