Physical therapy in times of change
Professionalisation and expansion of service ranges: Physical therapy in times of change
Christian Kunert has worked as a certified sports scientist and sports teacher in fitness and health sports for over 20 years. As a Health Manager, Vital Coach, lecturer at the HG Hochschule für Gesundheit & Sport, Technik & Kunst Berlin, as a speaker and trainer in fitness and health sports as well as an author of numerous national and international publications in books and trade magazines he links scientific theory with practice in these courses so that vitality can be experienced both in practice and in theory. FIBO met him at Meet the Top Physio on Mallorca some weeks ago and discussed current challenges and opportunities in physical therapy with him.
Mr Kunert, how would you describe the current situation in the physical therapy sector?
The sector is undergoing a fundamental change. With our agency we consult many practices and find that the sector has changed on various levels. One example is the area of education for physical therapists: Do you pay for your own training or is training free? Or do you study physical therapy rather than undergoing training? What would be the right option? These are questions facing tomorrow’s physical therapists.
Add to this the challenges of day-to-day business. Here the question of how to become independent of sickness fund payments in order to escape from the “treatment trap” and the resulting economic pressure are in particular focus. It should also be noted that practices find it hard to recruit staff which is also due to the changed expectations and needs of the new generation of physical therapists that no longer exactly correspond to the ideas of practice owners. This results in regional talent shortages and long waiting times.
How can practices counter this?
By offering services for self-payers, extended ranges and a general professionalization of the establishments. All of these are major challenges. Physical therapists have to act like salespeople today, but they don’t want to – they want to treat and heal people. A professionalization of practices is generally called for, where the owners can also look after management and the further development of services at a higher level rather than only working on the treatment bed. This includes the extension of services to include self-payers as well as a willingness on the part of therapists to also sell add-on services.
So what needs to happen?
Many practices have not realised yet that professionalization and an extension of services comes with not one but several advantages. These paths help to create an attractive working environment for therapists. Various prevention courses, corporate health management / corporate health promotion and care services, private services rendered on a self-payer basis all create diversity for daily work routine. Many primarily think of the associated costs but when these are calculated properly the investment pays off quickly because extra services against supplementary payment generate additional revenue. In the long term, this generates more turnover than confining oneself to sickness fund patients. However, many service providers have no realised this yet; and to this end, patients must become customers!
What is the role of health centres here?
Major health centres, as well as equipped fitness clubs, increase the pressure on small practices. The market forces physical therapists to rethink their business model. The situation has never been as favourable as today because health and fitness have become part of lifestyle for some target groups. As a result, people are more prepared to spend more on high-quality offers.
What is the role of FIBO here?
FIBO is a “mouthpiece” of the industry and demonstrates that health is increasingly moving centre stage. Many fitness facilities increasingly incorporate health, medical fitness or physical therapy. We are currently witnessing how these markets dovetail – which is reflected very well by the new concept in Hall 8.
What are your goals when visiting FIBO?
I primarily come to make contacts and gain an overview of innovations. Where else would you find all key players and innovations under the same roof? But I am also interested in the lectures to stay on the ball and complete some continuous education. Especially new training formats and concepts. I also like to try out new equipment with equipment manufacturers big and small.
Thank you for the interview.