The Most Important Metric for PTs

I had the pleasure of being invited to be on Chad Madden’s Private Practice Growth podcast this week.

Chad is a great, humble guy and always a pleasure to chat with. He is also very intelligent and a super-hard worker, coming extremely prepared for our time together.

Chad asked a bunch of great questions, but one really cut to the meat: “Which metric have you found to be the most important?”

Well there are a lot of really important metrics. We measure around 40 each month for each clinic. That may be more than most clinics need, but we use every single one to help guide our growth and inform us about the team’s performance. I can’t imagine not reviewing at any one of them each month.

After a little thought, I came up with what I think is the single most important metric: Visits per new patient.

If a clinician is able to consistently achieve our target number for this metric, we know that they are doing a lot of things right.

This is how I see it: there are big (and growing) reasons for a patient to stop coming to PT: financial, time, traffic frustration, MD recommendations, insurance pressure, etc. As a result, all things being equal, most compliant patients will generally stop coming to PT when they are around 80% better.

What happens next? Well although their pain may have subsided, the underlying biomechanics, strength, flexibility, control, etc aren’t where they need to be for long term health. So, pain often returns. We know that most patients don’t do their home exercises correctly or sufficiently, so this pain then increases.

At that point, they think to themselves, “I guess PT didn’t work for me”, then they go back to their MD and get the injection (which rarely allows long term relief) or surgery. The costs skyrocket and the outcome is usually worse than if they had experienced a successful PT plan of care, thereby achieving 100% health for that condition, rather than the 80%.

Think about that. Just a few more visits, let’s say worth $300 total, could have made the difference between:

  1. a healthy outcome and 
  2. tens of thousands of additional dollars spent as well as usually some life-long pain.

When you look at it in that perspective, it is so clear that we have a moral obligation to help our patients reach 100%. That means having them stay for as many visits as it takes to get there, as long as they are progressing.

As we all know, that isn’t easy. It takes relationship, rapport, great quality PT, frequent reassessment and communication, great customer service, empathy, compassion, enthusiasm, a welcoming environment, and much more.

We know that for a PT to reach the target number on this metric, they are doing a lot of things right. We also find that if this metric is being met, usually most other quality and productivity metrics are being met as well. You just can’t cut corners and have most of your patients stay with you until they are 100%.

So think about ways that you can improve the percentage of your patients that stay until they are at 100%. What would that take? Make the effort, it could be the most important thing you do for your clinic.

If you want to know the actual number that we expect for this metric, send me an email. I’d love to share some ways that we succeed.


Matt Slimming, PT, DPT