It is no secret that changing our sedentary, at-risk and chronic disease populations will take a lot of work. The integration of public health, fitness and medical paradigms is a good place to start. The large number of primary care physicians and the frequency with which people visit them presents a unique opportunity to decrease health risks of patients and, ultimately, the nation.
However, the focus of a physician’s training is traditionally on diagnosing and treating illness. And, the physician may not have the time to talk to a patient at length about health enhancement programs and behavior modification techniques. Here exists a gap in a patient’s health risk reduction education – a gap that can be filled by the services of fitness/wellness professionals, such as personal trainers and health coaches.
Following are tips on how to promote your services to the medical community.
1. Open the lines of communication with the physician of a new client.
By seeking instructions or program approval for a new client, you are introducing your services to that physician. The process of sending a marketing packet to a physician’s office and following up with a telephone call is usually not effective unless your business is well-known and has had documented client success. Your marketing packet will most likely be tossed out due to a physician’s lack of time to review unsolicited mail.
2. Modify your communication with the physician.
Be sure to use the medically preferred terms when communicating with a physician. For example, physicians refer to the people they treat as patients, rather than clients. Physicians may refer to a patient as sedentary, moderately active or active, rather “in shape” or “out of shape”.
Format any forms you are asking a physician to complete so that check marks rather than written narratives are required. Since most physicians do not have ACSM guidelines memorized, include the appropriate information in the form. Also, be sure your name, email address, phone number and credentials are clearly visible. Keep your credential information brief. Most physicians will be looking for degrees, certifications and evidence of experience working with a client group. Brief recommendations from others in the medical field may also be helpful.
3. Avoid any inclination to diagnose.
If your client is experiencing an irregular heartbeat with exercise, report your observations to the physician (with the patient’s permission). Your awareness of red flags will help to establish you as a knowledgeable professional.
4. Learn more about specialized populations via continuing education.
Cardiac conditions, pulmonary disease, musculoskeletal disorders and metabolic disorders will require you to work with the patient’s physician. Optimize your competence through clinical-related continuing education opportunities and specialty certifications.
5. Document results.
Develop structured and detailed initial assessments, progress tracking, evaluation procedures and ideally, statistical analysis supporting positive results. This will enable you to send progress reports to a patient’s physician and to build a database for your overall program evaluation.
6. Acquaint physicians with your services/programs.
If you operate your own gym/studio, invite them to be on your advisory board, provide them with complimentary memberships or pay them to give educational lectures.
7. Promote your services to physical therapists.
Personal trainers can help patients with post-rehabilitation work. Also, network with nurse practitioners.
8. Learn more about managed care companies and how they work.
Can you bill an insurance company for your services as a personal trainer or as a physician extender? In some circumstances, yes. However, as in many third-party payer relationships, there are positives and negatives to consider. Know the rules and regulations of the provider.
9. Consider the legal implications.
Physicians are concerned about the legal implications of referrals. If a patient is referred to a personal trainer and is injured by the personal trainer, the physician may be named in the lawsuit. Consult your insurance company for ways to hold the physician immune after the referral.
10. Hone your business and marketing skills.
Think of obtaining a referral from the medical community as expanding your business by going after a new market that can produce a potentially significant revenue stream!