Market opportunities for physiotherapists
Digital transformation and medical fitness are creating new opportunities
Fitness and training programmes are worthwhile additions to the field of physiotherapy and can be a successful way in which to expand. Knowledge of individual training approaches for rehabilitation and prevention offers a competitive advantage in comparison with the studios, hotels and major associations that are also trying to move into this market. Harald Finger explains why practices should take advantage of their head start to enter new fields of business. Finger, a corporate consultant based near Munich, specialises in the therapy sector, and he believes that it offers tremendous growth potential. At the FIBO CAMPUS, the congress programme that supplements the trade show, he provided physiotherapists with an overview of the challenges and opportunities presented by the health market.
Where do you see opportunities for fitness offerings in the health market?
Harald Finger: Practices need to do a better job of tapping their potential. This includes finding products for self-paying patients that suit their clientele, as well as the capabilities of their staff. At the same time, digitalisation is opening up new market opportunities. That is because health data is the currency of the future, and technological developments such as exoskeletons, rehabilitation robots and voice assistants all have the potential to support therapeutic approaches over the long term as well. Here, the goal has to be providing patients with ongoing health programmes, as the prescription field is limited. Six market segments are particularly attractive: rehabilitation sports and functional training; preventive courses in accordance with Section 20; fitness programmes; occupational health management programmes; e-sports and online exercises; and supplemental nutrition consulting.
What challenges do therapists need to overcome?
Finger: There’s no question that the biggest challenge is developing one’s own business model from the various areas of activity and acting as an entrepreneur. Not only does this involve managerial responsibilities, but also the training and development of employees so that they can serve as consultants. This is particularly important in the field of self-paying patients. Many people are under the false impression that this is simply sales work, but it actually involves the provision of professional advice and support for patients aimed at extending their therapies. Nor can one forget the necessary equipment and technology. Web-based software is a prerequisite for modern practice organisation, because the cloud makes it possible to oversee every area of the operation.
What concrete suggestions can you offer for implementation?
Finger: Implementation within a practice’s organisation must take place from the top down. If a therapist would like to develop into an entrepreneur, they need to seek out additional information in trade and online media, pursue professional development opportunities at conventions and congresses, and share thoughts and ideas with other treatment centres, so that they can learn from the best. Finally, it is essential to analyse market opportunities within their region, and to take advantage of these accordingly. If a practice’s patients include a large number of pensioners, for example, preventive programmes can represent a good addition to the portfolio. Such programmes also go well with digital offerings, for example Wii sport or video training, and it may even be possible to collaborate with a nearby retirement facility. The back offers another potential area of focus. 75 percent of all working people suffer from back ailments. This results in 60 million hours of lost work every year, and it creates a market that is drawing increasing company investment – as well as numerous opportunities for collaborations. Finally, employees require training that is in keeping with a practice’s area of focus.
What do therapists need to watch out for moving forward?
Finger: It is important that they do not simply opt for the first field they find – instead, a therapist should work to identify the field that best fits their practice, and one that matches their existing profile and makes it more distinctive. The chosen field must suit the practice’s patients, as well as its staff, and it should not appear to be out of place.
Which business models do you think hold particular promise for the future?
Finger: There are two fields that will be growing particularly strongly in future. One of these is occupational health management and promotion, and another is training for older people. Demographic change has seen to that. In both of these segments, one can leverage digitalisation and integrate it into the practice’s concept. The key here is to use online programmes, apps and/or smart home applications to ensure that patents are not left alone, but rather provided with professional support and assistance