30 August 2023, Andreas M. Bechler
Rehabilitation sports vs. prevention courses - What makes sense for my fitness programme?
Do you already offer rehabilitation or prevention courses? Here you can find out why it could make sense for you.
Rehabilitation sports and prevention courses have really taken off in recent years. More and more fitness studios, but also physiotherapists and even personal trainers, are relying on these concepts to (hopefully) sensibly expand their own service portfolio. But what makes these two concepts so special and which is the right one for your own fitness offering? In this article, I would like to give you a first overview and also show you two concrete examples of how these two concepts can be integrated into your service portfolio.
Important link between therapy and training
Rehabilitation sports and prevention courses play a special role in the patient/client journey. They are the link between the therapy phase (usually covered by payers) and the independent training phase (paid for by the client). They are thus given the supposedly difficult task of turning patients into self-paying clients. Both concepts have the advantage that the client can continue to work on their own health problems in a (at least largely) covered offer with direct support, which facilitates the continuation of therapy. Since these measures are not linked to a previous therapy, even a low-threshold entry can be achieved through this, which in turn pursues the same goal of turning the patient into a self-paying client.
If you would like to take a closer look at the entire customer journey of a healthcare provider, then take a look at the corresponding article:
Rehabilitation sports has become very popular in recent years. This is not all that surprising. Since after all, all sides benefit from it. The patient receives a longer group measure (50 exercise units over a period of 18 months) free of charge, the prescribing doctor does not burden his budget, the fitness provider gets an additional revenue generator and the health insurance company only has to pay for a comparatively inexpensive measure. The course formats come in different varieties. Probably the most common are gymnastics groups, water gymnastics groups, cardiac sports groups, rehabilitation sports after cancer, lung sports groups, children's sports groups, etc. There is usually an option for every problem. At least that's the theory.
In practice, offering rehabilitation sports involves a not inconsiderable amount of bureaucracy. This already starts with the admission of a rehabilitation sports group. The responsible trainer must have a valid B-licence for rehabilitation sport. The course itself must be certified by the respective state disability sports association. As a rule, this is done by an affiliated association which acts as the provider of such a course. Only when both requirements are met can rehabilitation sport be started.
The subsequent settlement of accounts with the health insurance funds also involves a great deal of effort. The health insurance companies, or companies commissioned by them, check the submitted accounts closely and quickly make deductions in case of inconsistencies. Many studios and physiotherapies therefore resort to providers who specifically relieve them of the effort involved in billing (in exchange for a share of the turnover) and enable the studio to concentrate on the essentials.
But enough words from me about rehabilitation sports. Let's hear from one of the providers himself about what he sees as the advantages of this health service.
Sven Stiel - 1. Chairman of VfRG e.V.
“Due to the circumstances of the last three years, there has been an increased demand for health sports among the population, which has led to a noticeable increase in the demand for rehabilitation sports and has even far exceeded the years before 2019. The fact that rehabilitation sports was also classified as a medically necessary measure in almost all federal states during the Corona period led to rehabilitation sports being allowed to be carried out in attendance even at lockdown times. This gives the status of "health provider" even greater value.
It should also be emphasised that the doctor's practice is our direct multiplier and we get the patients / interested parties sent directly from the doctor. A fruitful and profitable cooperation. Another advantage of rehabilitation sports is the obligation to consult the patient before starting. Here, we can introduce him or her to further services, such as targeted muscle building on the equipment, and let it end in a voluntary "additional membership". In addition, a rehabilitation athlete needs an average of 12 months to complete the entire measure, which in turn can be used to build up and consolidate a good customer relationship and thus implement the transition to a subsequent membership in the fitness club if no follow-up prescription is issued.
In summary, for me there are four arguments for the implementation of rehabilitation sports:
- Clear positioning as a health care provider
- Better utilisation of the course facilities
- Generating considerable additional income through the billing of group offers and the sale of additional offers
- New customer potential for member acquisition".
The second "tool" available to a health provider is the prevention course according to § 20 Abs. 4 Nr. 1 SGB V. Prevention courses are now available in abundance and can be offered in a wide variety of forms. Whether it is Nordic walking, yoga, aqua fitness, autogenic training, healthy nutrition, etc., there are many options for integrating this into the existing offer without the discrepancy becoming too great. In the meantime, some equipment providers also offer the possibility of supplying appropriate material for course certification with their training equipment.
The qualifications of the course instructors and the concept of the course itself are decisive for its implementation and are tested by the Central Prevention Testing Centre. If you pass the examination, you are allowed to offer courses from then on, which are largely covered by the statutory health insurance funds. Successfully passing the examination process should not be underestimated. The Central Examination Office demands a great deal from the documents, so that it can make sense to consult a specialised consulting agency or to purchase existing course concepts.
However, once you have passed the assessment process, you are spared bureaucratic billing processes. Participants pay you as the provider directly in advance of a prevention course and are then responsible for submitting the costs to their respective health insurance fund. It really doesn't get any less bureaucratic for you as a provider.
Here, too, I would like to let an expert have his say who advises fitness providers on how to successfully establish a prevention course.
“First of all, both systems have their justification and can even be operated very lucratively simultaneously in the studio. So it's not a question of 'either or', but rather a question of 'both'. If only because prevention is aimed at a target group with a high level of health awareness that wants to prevent something from breaking. In my opinion, that's the way it should be. Act before something breaks. As a rule, rehabilitation sports is only prescribed when something is broken, i.e. the child has already fallen into the well, so to speak.
A very interesting fact about prevention courses is that here one is free in pricing and the course fee is paid in full directly at the beginning. This has a positive effect on the studio's cash flow.
Another interesting point is that the §20 prevention courses provide access to companies through BGM/BGF measures. This is a topic that is becoming increasingly important and is an excellent positioning and business model for studios. The only downside is that the basic qualification for prevention measures is more restrictive than for rehabilitation sports.”
Finding the right offer
In the end, you will have to decide for yourself whether you want to use rehabilitation sports, prevention courses or a combination of both in your health programme. Both offers have their advantages, as described above, and have often been used successfully in practice. It is important that the respective offer fits into the overall service portfolio. Let's illustrate this with two concrete, in my opinion, best-practice examples.
PhysioFamily and Fitnessfamily Koblenz are a great example of the successful integration of a rehabilitation sports concept into a gym. Patients typically come from previous physiotherapy or directly with a rehabilitation sports prescription and are led into an intensive consultation before starting rehabilitation sports. This conversation is already the key to turning the patient into a customer of one's own fitness studio later on and to providing him or her directly with all the know-how. The great success of 33 rehabilitation sport groups in the meantime proves the owner couple Kroth right.
But prevention courses can also be successfully integrated into the service offer. DK Sports & Physio from Karlsruhe knows how to integrate a rather young and sporty clientele in the therapy connection or directly in a prevention course. The courses are of course adapted to this clientele and are correspondingly challenging. Ideally, the client will stay with the practice afterwards for the personal training that is also offered or will think of the positive experience at the latest during the next therapy measure.
It is also worth mentioning that the two concepts are of course not mutually exclusive. Depending on what is on offer, a combination of the two can also make sense. On the one hand, you pick up people who want to do something for their health (prevention), and on the other hand, you take those people with you who have already slipped into the therapeutic track due to their illness (rehabilitation).
However, there is another point that should always be kept in mind with both concepts. The bureaucratic effort for recognition and, in the case of rehabilitation sports, also for billing, should not be underestimated. Here, you should seriously consider using an external service provider in order to be able to focus on the core activity of customer care. Your time budget (and probably your nerves) will thank you.
As you can see, both concepts have their justification. In the end, the decisive question is what fits better into one's own range of services or to one's own target group. Once you have found a line in this respect, you can (almost) get started. What are you still waiting for?
About the author
Andreas M. Bechler is an author, consultant, lecturer and podcaster in the fitness industry. In addition, Andreas is the spokesperson for the fitness industry working group of the VSD - Verband für Sportökonomie und Sportmanagement e.V. You can get in touch with Andreas via LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/andreasmbechler
About Hashtag Fitnessindustrie
Hashtag Fitness Industry is the podcast about the German fitness industry with all its facets and players. It is intended to enable a transfer of knowledge between the interview guests and the listener for the benefit of the entire industry. Current trends and developments are as much a part of the podcast as fundamental strategic questions from the daily business of fitness providers. hashtag-fitnessindustrie.de