How to Measure the Impact of Your Physical Therapy Â Documentation System on Your Bottom Line
By Amy Griffin, PT, Yuval Lirov, PhD, and Dave Macolino
Peter felt great this morning. He was happy to jump on his exercise bike, stretch his lower back and hamstrings, get a quick shower, and head straight to his physical therapy office. He knew his patient care schedule was full with at least fifteen or sixteen patients. Treating patients was the kind of work he loved so much.
His physical therapy practice was steadily gaining traction since opening one year ago. He was making a name for himself with several referring doctors as well as a solid community service reputation. Peter began thinking . . . . since he was seeing two patients per hour, charging an average $78 for a one hour visit, and working the standard 2,000 hours a year, that he was going to make about $312,000 a year.
Smiling to himself, Peter thought that perhaps in a year or two, he could hire a couple of assistants, increase the throughput to maybe 4 per hour and double his revenues to $624,000 a year. Peter envisioned a solid $6 million over the next decade. He could not wait to share his calculations with his young wife. They had been dreaming of building a house in a nice new development and a new SUV for her to bus their 7-year old and her friends to their daily soccer training sessions.
â€œPeter, will you skip dinner tonight again?â€ asked his wife Alicia. Peter had worked every evening in the past 2 months as well as all of the weekends. He had also missed all of their daughterâ€™s soccer matches and he even forgot their wedding anniversary. Alicia was now wondering if the idea of Peter opening his own physical therapy practice was a good one. Was working for somebody else making $65,000 a year so bad? At least life was normal then.
â€œMaybe we should sit down tonight and talk.â€ Alicia said to Peter. â€œI really need to understand why you spend every evening and every weekend in the office.â€
Peter started to feel a light headache and stressed with pressure from his wife. â€œYou know honey, patient visit documentation is a compliance requirement. Both malpractice insurance and payers require it. Without visit documentation, we risk failing post-payment audits and incurring severe penalties including license suspension, fines and imprisonment. Is that the kind of risk you want me to take for us to have dinner together each night?â€
â€œPeter, what about computerized documentation? What do you think about purchasing a physical therapy practice management software system that generates SOAP notes for you? I actually called around and discovered several physical therapy documentation systems that allow you to complete a note within 20 minutes.â€
â€œAll you have to do,â€ continued Alicia, â€œis to document patient complaints and comments in the Subjective section, document your findings in the Objective section, type your Assessment, and prepare your recommended treatment in the Plan section.â€
â€œAlicia . . . â€ Peter was getting tired of explaining the same thing again and again, â€œI know all there is to know about SOAP notes. My problem is that I need to type each and every note. How can I type an entire note in 20 minutes?â€