Four Benefits of a Multidisciplinary Clinic
Written by Edwin Brown
Sep 20, 2019
We talk with a lot of therapy clinic owners and most of them do not start out to open a multidisciplinary clinic. Most start out wanting to open a private practice specifically for their discipline (speech is the most common) because that’s what they know and what they are comfortable with. Make no mistake, you can run a successful private practice offering only speech or occupational therapy, but why are so many of the larger clinics multidisciplinary? Here are four reasons clinics go multidisciplinary and why you should consider it as well.
Referrals are the lifeblood of any private practice. They are the first thing we tell new practice owners to focus on when starting out. So what does being multidisciplinary have to do with getting referrals?
Your most common source of referrals will likely be your local pediatricians and family practice physicians. In order to get a physician to refer a patient to your new practice, you need to solve a problem for that physician. Physicians refer to specialist because it solves a problem for them and their patients.
“Exactly,” I can hear you saying, “they have a patient who has a communication disorder and I can solve that problem! Refer to me.”
But that is not the only problem the physician is trying to solve. She is likely thinking “A lot of my patients that need speech therapy end up needing occupational therapy as well. I really don’t want to have to deal with two different clinics for scripts and evaluation reports. What was the name of the clinic that had speech and OT?”
And just like that your single discipline clinic is out of the conversation.
I have also found that physicians tend to have 2-3 clinics that they send the vast majority of their referrals to. They just do not have enough mental space to keep up with seven or eight different therapy groups and try to remember which one offers what service. They will remember the large groups that offer all the services their patients typically need. I’m not saying you can’t have a single discipline clinic, but you will really have to work to get on a physicians radar and to stay when you can only solve one of their problems.
We do not sell in our practices, we help patients. But the old sales saying still pertains to our practices “it is a lot easier to sell an existing customer than to get a new one.” For our practices you could say “It’s a lot easier to get an existing patient to add another discipline than getting a new patient.” A significant portion of patients that receive OT or speech services will also need the other discipline. The work you put into getting that initial referral, welcoming a new patient to your practice, building rapport, and setting them up in your EMR, all of that work is already done for your existing patients.
In fact, it’s work for a family to come to your clinic, fill out paperwork, decide if they like their therapist and commit to coming back regularly. If that patient needs additional services that you cannot offer they have to go through that entire process all over again. It is likely that if they have to find another clinic and that clinic offers both disciplines, they will switch to that clinic for both.
“It’s a lot easier to get an existing patient to add another discipline than getting a new patient.”
3. Quality of Therapy
Multidisciplinary practices (at least the good ones) are collaborative between the different disciplines. In our practice you will often see an OT and a PT discussing a challenging session with a patient they share or relaying information they picked up from mom in the latest visit. They may review goals together and even modify their plans of care to support each other. Even if you have a good relationship with the other practice you refer your patients out to, there is no way to duplicate the level of cooperation and collaboration that happens between a team that works together all day every day.
Therapists want to work in multidisciplinary clinics. They like the idea of working alongside other therapists that have different perspectives that they can learn from. They know it makes them better clinicians and good therapist want to grow and get better. We see a lot of resumes, especially new graduates, and one of the top three most consistent things that new graduates say they are looking for is to work in a multidisciplinary environment.
You can run a successful practice offering only one discipline and you’ll likely need to start that way. But practices that offer multiple disciplines have many natural benefits that make life just a little easier for a practice owner. It’s no coincidence that the largest practices in most metros almost always offer PT, OT and Speech and many offer behavioral as well.
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