I've got a bone to pick with you outpatient therapists! When I first started working at the hospital, our inpatient office was right next door to the front office of our outpatient department. It was pretty easy to listen to some of the phone calls come in, and one of the most frequent things I'd hear that always bothered me was a conversation that went something like this:
Patient: "I need to come in for physical therapy for balance."
Office Staff: "Well we only have two ‘balance therapists' and they are booked out for the next three weeks."
First of all, why are we labeling therapists as "balance" or "neuro" or "ortho?" I can appreciate that specific therapists have areas they like working in or maybe are more proficient at than others, but I've always had a problem with therapists restricting themselves to one diagnosis or problem area. (This is probably one of the reasons I work in inpatient... I get to see a little of everything!)
Secondly, three weeks to get an appointment? Are you kidding me? And sadly, this is common practice, not just at our outpatient facility, but at many throughout the area. It hit me again today as I was trying to assist a patient who had been admitted for BPPV. Typically we like them to follow up with an outpatient therapist within 48 hours, but the first appointment available within our hospital system was almost two weeks out! I ended up having to set him up with a rival company just because they had the availability in their schedule!
Now, I can certainly appreciate that outpatient physical therapy is where the money is at (when compared to inpatient physical therapy at least), so having a full schedule for your therapists is obviously preferred. But what kind of message does it send when you have to tell new patients that they have to wait two or three weeks to get in? And then finding treatment sessions after that, well good luck!
Surely there has to be a better business model than this. One that maximizes therapist efficiency and productivity, while still maintaining a flexible enough schedule to accommodate new patients coming in within a reasonable timeframe!