By Nick Hedges

Physical therapy and practices rely on a series of simple but key metrics to measure the success of their practices. However, while metrics such as no-shows, patient discharges, and physical therapist (PT) vacant hours are a great place to start regarding the productivity of physical therapists, they don’t always offer a full picture of individual therapists’ total productivity. Other factors, including each PT’s attitude, punctuality, and patient satisfaction scores, also impact a practice’s success and efficiency.

Thus, it makes sense for practice owners and managers to look at the bigger picture by also considering the soft skills and traits that define a PT’s effectiveness. This not only will give practice leaders a clearer picture of how each team member is performing, it will enable a data-driven approach while also providing better guidance and feedback on an individual level.

Metrics for Measuring the Productivity of Physical Therapists

Several metrics can help clarify how each PT in a practice contributes or undermines its efficiency. Starting with the stats can highlight performance trends that might not be obvious at first glance. 

Patient Visits 

Calculating the total number of patient visits per week is an obvious place to start when assessing a PT’s productivity. Though caseloads can depend on factors such as the size and location of a practice, a typical minimum for the PT industry is one patient visit per hour – approximately eight per day, or 40 per week. It’s possible in some cases to increase the expectations to two patient visits per hour, or even three with assistance from techs.

It is important, though, to make sure that patient visit expectations are equitable and sustainable to avoid PTs becoming overwhelmed by their caseloads, which quickly can trigger burnout and poor performance. By breaking down the number of patient visits per PT, practices can identify whether staff are meeting basic expectations and if there is potential for improvement.

No-Shows and Cancellations

2021 research report pegged the no-show rate for physical therapy appointments in the U.S. at 20.6%. Another study concluded that more than 70% of patients miss at least one appointment in their course of treatment. Nonetheless, it’s helpful to know whether certain PTs have a higher rate of cancellation and no-shows than others. 

One simple formula for practices is to divide the number of no-show appointments by the total number of appointments and convert the decimal into a percentage. This gives you each therapist’s no-show percentage, which can be compared to those of other PTs. Once these rates are determined, practices can set goals for each therapist. A good idea is to offer encouragement and incentivize those with high no-show percentages to improve.

Patient Satisfaction Score

Patient satisfaction surveys are valuable tools for assessing a practice’s success. Patient surveys also can provide helpful feedback about your PTs’ individual efforts. 

This information is critical because unhappy patients are highly likely to find another practice.  A 2017 survey conducted by Kelton Global showed that “88% of patients would switch their healthcare provider if they were unhappy with their care.” 

When practices compare scores for each PT, they can see if and how their therapists are providing a quality experience. This will help them set performance standards and decide which PTs need extra attention, coaching, or review.

Intangibles and Soft Skills

Numbers alone won’t provide a comprehensive view of the total productivity of physical and occupational therapists. Several intangibles also play a huge part. These include: 

  • Mindset – The attitude PTs bring to their work – and the satisfaction they receive from it – has a huge impact on their success. Therapists with a consistently positive mindset will often be more efficient, find creative ways to solve problems, have higher patient engagement, and uplift their team members. It’s also likely that you’ll see their positive attitude reflected in employee satisfaction surveys or performance reviews.
  • Embodying the therapy practice’s core values – Core values consist of the professional ethics and the personal conduct encouraged within a practice. These may include accountability, altruism, compassion, excellence, and integrity. A productive PT will deliver exceptional care by acting in their patient’s best interests. This shows in the way they provide evidence-based, safe, and effective care, as well as collaborating with other healthcare professionals to ensure the best possible treatment outcomes. 
  • Punctuality – When PTs are chronically late to work, it has far-reaching implications on their productivity and patient satisfaction. It creates a snowball effect that wreaks havoc on a practice’s schedule and likely will lead to appointment cancellations and poor survey scores. If practices can understand why a PT is always late to work, collaboration can boost their performance. If their daily work schedules are tightly packed, forcing them to work late or burn out, practice admins can step in to identify a more efficient documentation software, opportunities to streamline providers’ workflows, or make adjustments to the patient visit schedules. 

Bring It All Together with Performance Reviews 

A PT performance review can either be good, bad, or neutral. These judgments should be based on key metrics and intangible qualities. Practices should have a way to measure performance reviews over time so they can spot upward or downward trends. Practices should acknowledge and reward PTs with a track record of good performance reviews because their productivity already is at a level compatible with the goals of the practice.

If a PT has a bad performance review, practice leaders first must determine the root causes. Pinpoint the exact aspects of their performance that have negatively impacted their productivity over the course of time. This will enable practices to set the correct course of action to improve a PT’s performance and productivity in the long run. PTs with a neutral performance review should be incentivized to put in the extra effort to increase their productivity. 

By understanding the right metrics and intangibles, practices can create a comprehensive picture of any PT’s performance. This will pave the way for practices to take concrete steps to boost the effectiveness of their PTs, which will result in better morale and more satisfied and loyal patients.

Nick Hedges is the chief executive officer of Raintree Systems and a 25-year veteran of the technology industry. Raintree is a leading provider of electronic health records (EHR) including patient engagement, scheduling, billing, and practice management, in addition to revenue cycle management (RCM) software solutions for the therapy and rehab industry. It was awarded the 2023 Best in KLAS designation for outpatient therapy/rehab software and services.