5 Strategies to Enhance Patient Engagement in Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapy

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As a physical, occupational, or speech therapist, client engagement is critical for the success of your practice. When clients are engaged, they take an active interest in their treatment, and they’re more likely to follow through with your recommendations. Engaged clients are also more likely to achieve successful outcomes, which is a win-win situation for both you and your client. But engaging clients is easier said than done; every therapist has experienced clients utterly unengaged, leaving them with little recourse to improve the situation. So, what can you do?


What is Patient Engagement?

Patient engagement is the active involvement and collaboration of patients in their healthcare. It is important because it improves health outcomes, enhances patient satisfaction, facilitates better communication with healthcare providers, and promotes shared decision-making.

It’s particularly important for physical, occupational, and speech therapists because the care you offer often requires ongoing, continuous work even outside of sessions, usually in the form of HEPs or other exercises. Session time is limited, so therapists are best served spending that time on things that require their expertise, and having simple exercises be prescribed outside of sessions.


The Cost of Unengaged Clients

Unengaged clients might not be motivated to attend their sessions, ignore or disregard your recommendations, and become frustrated with the lack of progress. Therefore, it is essential to improve engagement with clients to ensure their success during treatment and maintain a thriving practice. Physical, occupational, and speech therapists often have a high dropout rate, with clients frequently missing sessions or even not finishing their treatment. Acquiring new clients requires substantial resources and effort, and a high dropout rate means that the practice may have to invest additional time and funds to attract new clients. The financial impact cannot be ignored. When clients don’t complete treatment, it can lead to wasted resources, including lost revenue from missed appointments or unused treatment sessions. Additionally, it may increase healthcare costs in the long run, as clients who do not fully recover or achieve their goals may require further interventions or medical care in the future. And, of course, your practice’s reputation may suffer.


How to Engage Patients in their Care

Here are some patient engagement strategies you can use to engage clients:


1. Build Personal Relationships

One of the most effective ways to engage clients is to build personal relationships with them. By getting to know your clients beyond their symptoms, you can understand their values, motives, and goals. This information will enable you to tailor your treatment plan to meet their needs effectively. You can also use this information to motivate them and help them achieve their goals.

You might wonder how you’re supposed to keep hundreds of clients and their personal information in mind in addition to doing your job. Don’t panic! Simply adding notes about your clients in your EHR and checking them before a session can help you. For example, a client might mention her daughter is graduating soon. You could jot that down, then check notes before the session and ask your client about her daughter.


2. Encourage Active Participation

Another good way to engage your clients is to encourage active participation during their therapy. When clients take an active role, they feel more invested in their treatment. Encourage them to ask questions, make suggestions, and take an active interest in their rehabilitation. This type of engagement will help clients feel more empowered and motivated to participate in their treatment actively.

Don’t forget to set boundaries. While you want your client to be actively involved, you are the expert, not them. Be open to their concerns or suggestions, but also be prepared to be firm when necessary. In addition, while fostering a good client relationship can help improve outcomes, some patients find lines blur between concerned therapist and friendship. Follow ethical guidelines concerning patient relationships.

Leverage your client portal! Your clients should be able to send you messages or questions, access resources, and update their information, giving them a more active role in their care. When patients can see their own health data, they gain ownership of their own wellness and are better prepared to interact with their providers about their care. Patient portals also promote patient engagement in healthcare decisions by improving communication between patients and healthcare providers and allowing patients to manage their care online.


3. Use Patient Engagement Technology

Technology can be a powerful tool to improve client engagement, making therapy more interesting and interactive. One primary engagement technology is your EHR, where you can provide clients with progress reports, interactive exercises, and valuable resources.

Appointment reminders through your EHR are helpful, particularly through text messages, as most people read them within minutes of receiving them. This can be effective in reducing no-show rates.

Once your clients make it to their sessions, you can support and engage them by sending Home Exercise Programs (HEPs) and other resources such as videos or PDFs.


Download your free customizable HEP templates here.


Your patient portal is an essential digital client engagement tool. It allows clients to access their health information, communicate with you, update their information, and conveniently pay their bills.

Leveraging the client portal can also assist in adjusting the treatment plan as clients can message you about any concerns or provide information for you to assess their progress or form.

Speaking of messaging, make sure your EHR includes secure messaging capabilities for confidential communication and easy documentation. Secure messaging also helps to maintain boundaries and separate personal and work communication channels.

Educating clients on the benefits and proper use of the client portal is necessary to drive adoption and maximize its potential.


Outside of your client portal, telehealth can bridge the gap between sessions, allowing clients to engage with you through video calls and addressing immediate concerns without the need for in-person visits. Fusion allows your clients to join a virtual session from their portal, or via a secure link sent to them.

Lastly, let’s discuss a tech engagement tool most therapists aren’t using to their full potential. Your EMR’s graphing capabilities can visually showcase clients’ progress and help them better understand their treatment. This graphical representation can be more impactful and engaging for clients than a lengthy explanation.


4. Provide Encouragement and Support

Feeling discouraged is a common reason why clients stop engaging in treatment. Therefore, providing encouragement and support is vital for maintaining client engagement. As therapists, providing feedback on their progress and accomplishments can motivate them to continue working toward their goals.

Knowledge is power. For example, explain to clients that doing their HEPs could mean they could go back to working out sooner or achieve independence earlier than if they don’t do them. Be prepared to explain to your clients why you want them to do specific things and how they help. Your clients may experience frustration – after all, it can be difficult to re-learn basic skills. Be compassionate and let them know how they’re doing. They may not realize that a simple act like turning a doorknob is a milestone for their recovery.


Empower Clients

Empowering clients is an essential aspect of improving engagement. Providing clients with the tools and resources they need to take control of their treatment helps engage them. When clients feel empowered, they take ownership of their progress, and they become more invested in their treatment. Explain their condition to them, the limitations caused by their problem, medication or HEPs, what they should and shouldn’t do to get better, red flags that indicate something is going wrong, and a time frame for their treatment.


Engaging clients is critical to effective therapy, and using various methods such as building relationships, encouraging participation, using technology, providing support, and empowering clients can immensely help. Engaged clients are more likely to attend and participate in their sessions and are more likely to achieve successful outcomes. By focusing on client engagement, physical, occupational, and speech therapists can provide better care for their clients and maintain a flourishing therapy practice.


Fusion is an all-in-one EMR that has the tools you need to maximize client engagement. Our client portal is easy to use, allowing clients to fill out intake forms, pay bills online, and securely send and receive messages. See what else we can do to help you engage your clients. Schedule a demo today.




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