Why 9 out of 10 Local MDs are Struggling (and How Physical Therapy Can Help them)

The other day, I was flying back to New Jersey  from Austin, Texas after attending a conference. The copy of USA Today they handed out to business first passengers had a very interesting article on chronic pain management and I captured a quick video about my thoughts on the article here.

The article (which was published in USA today and can be accessed here) was written by Kevin Pho, a primary care physician in Nashua, N.H.

It was revealed that more patients suffer from chronic pain than those with diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.

This is a serious problem, and is compounded by the fact that most doctors don’t have a clue how to manage chronic pain.

Here’s the proof, as mentioned in the USA today article:

“According to the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, 80%-90% of physicians have no formal training in prescribing controlled substances, such as pain pills.  It was also emphasized that doctors who treat patients with chronic pain must be fluent in dosing and monitoring the use of pain pills as well as recognizing the signs of abuse”

This means that 9 out of 10 MDs are struggling with chronic pain management

What I found really interesting was the fact that physical therapy was not listed as an option in the management of chronic pain ANYWHERE in this article.

For amateur private practice owners, this seems discouraging, but for strategic owners, the article (and my strategy below) is an excellent opportunity to use an advanced marketing method I call “pre-emptive physical therapy”. My mental gears went into overdrive as I thought about this problem.

There is a need in the medical community for more education, more resources and more solutions for chronic pain management, right?

That’s exactly where you (and your services) come in.

Why not position physical therapy (and your services) as an option to local doctors? You’ll build credibility in the process AND drive more referrals to your clinic.

You have to go about it the right way, which is why I’ve simplified the process for you.

Here’s what you can do today to educate physicians about the benefits of physical therapy and position yourself as a viable alternative (or adjunct) to prescription medication.

Day 1
CPM Benefit Summary Letter
Create a list of benefits that your clinic has to offer for patients suffering from chronic pain and draft a letter.

Day 2
Target Physician List
Identify the doctors in your community who work with chronic pain patients, who are not referring you patients.

Day 3
Multi-mode Contact
Reach out to these doctors by phone / fax / email / personal visit and show them the article from USA today, and your letter explaining why physical therapy should be considered in chronic pain management.

Day 10
Strategic Success Story Distribution
Follow up a week later with a success story from one of your own patients whom you successfully treated for chronic pain.

After day 10, stay in touch with the doctor’s office once a week. Constantly remind the doctors that physical therapy can help chronic pain patients. Consistent follow up will help you break the ice and get that ‘first referral’. Once you get a referral, go out of your way to get results for the patient and repeat (d) above.

Rinse and repeat the entire process at least once a month with ever local doctor on your list. If you are consistent with these steps, more and more of those doctors will become regular referral sources.

You can also use a similar strategy with existing patients and past patients, since the consumer also needs to be educated about the role of physical therapy in the management of chronic pain.

The medical community is struggling with this problem, and is plagued by concerns of liability over issues like dependence on prescription medication.

Combine this fear of prescriptions with the lack of education, and you have a problem that’s waiting to be solved by you, the local physical therapist

The chronic pain management conundrum affects both doctors and patients. Millions of patients need your help.

The only problem is that they are not getting the (physical therapy) referrals from their doctor.

This is an opportunity for physical therapists to position themselves as an important treatment option that doctors must explore.

PS - Did you know that 82% the top 1% income earners in the United States read the Wall Street Journal every single day? This is something I’ve been doing for a long time, and I encourage you to do the same. Start the day with 30 minutes of exercise, followed by 30 minutes of reading the Wall Street Journal over breakfast. I also enjoy reading USA today, which is how I stumbled upon the pain management article in the plane earlier this week.

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Leave A Reply (12 comments So Far)


  1. Aries
    3 years ago

    I'm also surprised that physical therapy was not listed as an option. For a couple of years now, my physical therapist has been helping me with pain management.


  2. Candice
    3 years ago

    You're idea of converting this into an opportunity to generate referrals from local doctor is brilliant.


  3. April Simmons
    3 years ago

    Any pointers on how we should approach the doctors to make them refer their patients with chronic pain problem to physical therapists like us?


  4. Patrick M.
    3 years ago

    A very interesting article but your PS caught my attention.

    I didn't know those statistical figures about people that reads Wall Street Journal. Good thing that is part of my morning routine.


  5. Raymond
    3 years ago

    I don't like relying to pills for pain management as much as possible. Nice to know that there is an alternative solution


  6. Mary
    3 years ago

    Chronic pains are very common with people 60 and above due to the age. Would pain management through physical therapy still be applicable to them?


  7. Sheldon F.
    3 years ago

    This is great news for people that endures chronic pain. Physical therapy treatment sound like a better and healthier cure compared to taking pain killers


  8. K. Martin
    3 years ago

    80-90% of MDs has no formal training for pain management. They're lost, our gain I suppose


  9. Alicia
    3 years ago

    Has anyone contact American Society of Interventional Pain or the newspaper to let them know what Physical Therapy can do for back pain? I also came across a similar article from Consumer Report, only compared meds to chiropractic services, making the chiro look like the best choice for back treatments. Not even once they mentioned physical therapy :(


    • totalactivation
      3 years ago

      Alicia, thanks for your comment. This means we have to do a better job at educating, qualifying and motivating consumers and physicians to seek US as the first choice in the management of chronic pain. It has taken a long time, but the APTA has already taken some encouraging steps with the Move Forward campaign, and ultimately, we need to take action ourselves instead of depending on someone else / an organization to do the heavy lifting for us.


  10. Peggy
    1 year ago

    I suspect that doctors who have not been trained to the benefits of PT get a little suspect about our claims. Also, my experience in visiting doctor's offices is they get a little put off if it is too often – once a month seems to not stress them…otherwise, I get doors shut. We did letters once a week for a month featuring different treatments and that seemed to be fine – but they didn't want to see me every month Doctors are so busy that just getting to the RN's or the office manager is sometimes the most I can expect. We do offer luncheons where we bring the lunch for the entire staff and we present a presentation on some specifics to as many of the professional staff who will attend. We are lucky to get about 50 percent of the staff but have seen results. I take something to give them the staff with each office visit. I even picked apples from a local orchard and took bags of apples to many of the offices. Any suggestions beyond these would be appreciated!


  11. Nitin Chhoda
    1 year ago

    Hi Peggy, I appreciate the fact that your efforts are consistent and diligent. I think you should find different reasons to approach physicians, try searching for ‘physician profiling’ on this blog, for example. There’s no harm in approaching them more than once a month, as long as the reason for the approach is relevant, unique and beneficial to them and not just a solicitation for referrals. The referrals are a consequence of consistent, meaningful communication where we give more than we expect to get back. Let me know what you think of ‘physician profiling’ – Nitin

 
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