When a new patient calls in to make their first appointment often times they are in pain, they might also be nervous or skeptical of physical therapy and it’s the job of your front desk to encourage them and set them up for a successful first visit. Regardless if it’s their first experience with physical therapy or they have been treated in the past, walking into a new clinic can be intimidating. It’s up to your front desk to set their minds at ease and get things off on the right foot. Here are a few ideas on how to prepare patients for a physical therapy appointment.
What to Bring
While the patient on the phone scheduling their first appointment be sure your front desk reminds them what they should bring. Having a list of items on your website is a good idea and if you have any of your patient registration paperwork available online ask your patient to fill it out at home and bring the completed packet with them to their appointment. Streamlining the administrative part of their first appointment makes wait times shorter and gives the patient a chance to thoughtfully fill our all of their registration paperwork. Here’s a list of other the essentials:
- The prescription for therapy from their doctor (if your state requires it.)
- ID Card
- Insurance card(s) or case number
- List of medications currently taking
- Any relevant diagnostic reports they have (x-ray or MRI)
Asking your patients to arrive a little early, at least 15 minutes before your schedule appointment is always a good idea. This allows your front desk plenty of time to check them in, collect their co-pay if needed, and to go over any administrative questions or paperwork ahead of their appointment.
What to Wear
If a patient is brand new to PT, they might not be aware of what to wear. Be sure to stress that it is important that they are comfortable. The therapy session may include stretches and moderate exercise, so let them know they should dress as if they were going to the gym. Here are a few suggestions:
- For shoulder injuries- tank tops or loose t-shirst to be able to expose shoulder
- For knee injuries- shorts or loose pants that can be pulled up over the knee
- It’s a good idea to suggest a patient bring a change of clothes if coming in during or after work. The patient may need to lay down which may wrinkle their clothes. And some clothing items like skirts and dresses will make it difficult to participate in needed tests or exercises.
What to Expect The First Visit
It’s a good idea to explain to patients what exactly they can expect on their first visit. Let them know that a therapy visit, especially their initial visit, may last least an hour so they should plan accordingly. As part of their first appointment the therapist conducts an interview of the patient as part of the initial evaluation to get an understanding of their condition. Inform the patient they should be prepared to answer questions like: how long they’ve been experiencing their symptoms, how did they start, and what types of activities aggravates their symptoms? Also let the patient know that during their exam the therapist may evaluate their strength, range of motion, flexibility, posture, and mobility. If appropriate the therapist may also perform special clinical tests to help assess their condition.
Clear and meaningful communication is really the key to happy and satisfied patients, and happy patients mean a healthy bottom line. If your patients feel prepared and confident when they first walk into your clinic, this will carry with them throughout their therapy experience and they are more likely to complete their treatment plan, refer their friends and family, and come back in the future.