From therapy to training
First therapy, then training – that is the approach favoured by Frank Gerlach. For more than 20 years now, the corporate consultant has been helping physiotherapists and rehabilitation practices to integrate their fitness and health programmes. He encourages health experts to think beyond the treatment of acute pain and offer their patients long-term training concepts. At the FIBO CAMPUS, the congress programme that supplements the trade show, he provided physiotherapists with valuable input for their work.
Why is medical fitness a good business field for physiotherapists?
Frank Gerlach: Because it is a logical extension of the therapy table. Approx. 80 to 90 percent of patients have problems with their back or joints, and they require training in order to remain healthy.
How can patients be transformed into training clients?
Gerlach: The only way to successfully complete this transformation is if patients receive professional advice and support right from the time that they enter the practice. A good concept has a number of components, including providing the patient with a plan at the start that leads from the initial, more passive acute therapy to active movement training and, finally, effective prevention. Otherwise there is always a danger that they will quit as soon as the pain begins to subside. The problem is far from being solved at this point, however, because the cause has not yet been eliminated. When there is such structural damage to the back or joints, it generally takes between 300 and 500 days to restore full function – and that can only be done with a long-term training programme.
How can physiotherapists find the right concept?
|Gerlach: The key is to offer individual support. To do this, therapists must have their own profile, one that is oriented to their core audience and which has greater depth, rather than breadth. In other words, rather than trying to offer everything, a therapist must clearly position themselves. If a therapist specialises in the back and joints, for example, the training should also be focused on these areas. Workshops, courses and presentations on the topic can offer a good way of supplementing this. Making changes such as these has an impact on routines in the practice, so it is worthwhile to get professional help for carrying out this restructuring. These changes take time, which is why I generally work with my clients for a period of eight to ten years on average. Everyone needs to find a suitable partner to help them with this process.|
Once a profile has been established, how can it be marketed successfully?
Gerlach: That’s the best thing about it: the clients are already there, as they are the therapist’s patients. There is no need to advertise for clients, and this offers some freedom from the pressures of the market. Even so, the manner in which you approach your patients, the programmes you offer them and the way you win them over all require skills that must first be learned.
What strategies have been successful for you?
Gerlach: There is no single thing that guarantees success – it is an ongoing process. When I work with a physiotherapist and their team, I give training courses and provide supervision for patient talks. I also facilitate knowledge transfer and the exchange of information and expertise on a regular basis, and collaborate on annual planning. Staying power is required. Once the fundamental knowledge is in place, the new concept can be up and running successfully quite quickly. To tap its full potential, however, it is worthwhile to have long-term support – otherwise there is always a danger that people return to their normal routines, and that the new concept falls into disuse.