Home Health Therapist with elderly patient
Allied Travel February 20, 2024

By Tim Fraticelli

5 Tips for Improving Efficiency as a Home Health Travel Therapist

A travel contract as a home health therapist is the ultimate nomadic lifestyle. Not only are you traveling for work, but you’re also traveling at work, itinerating from house to house to see patients.

In therapy, this kind of career often leads to higher pay and a greater earning potential. But it can also open the door to work inefficiency, a truckload of more documentation, and time management challenges that can have you scrambling to fulfill your weekly productivity quota yet sitting in cross-town traffic.

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5 Home Health Travel Therapy Tips

If you’re ready to run a tighter ship, here are five ways to improve your efficiency as a home health travel therapist:

  1. Use Home Health Documentation Templates

I won’t mince words here: home health documentation is beastly. After your first day of training you’ll realize how much more work is required to satisfy documentation standards. It may seem unfair, but these extra steps are necessary; because home health is reimbursed at a much higher rate than other services, home health therapists must go to greater lengths to prove their service is skilled and necessary.

That higher bar means more boxes to tick with every visit you document, including not only the standard SOAP format but also factors such as homebound status and environmental barriers. Making matters worse, you likely have just a tablet and tiny keyboard with which to navigate a foreign EMR that feels, in most cases, clunky and outdated.

All told, the best way to tame the documentation beast is to cut down on inefficiency. A documentation template can provide the structure you need to cover every requirement in an easy-to-follow format. Not only will this ensure more accurate, thorough documentation, it will also streamline the process and save you valuable time with every patient.

Another way to trim the fat is to retain common phrases you write often and copy-paste them, especially for repetitive tasks like writing orders or general exercise descriptions. That way, you can just tweak the changing details and leave the rhetoric as is. If you find yourself following the same patterns for treatment—be it for better balance, total knee replacement, or a postural issue—you can save considerable time by recycling your writing. Simply copy any high-use key phrases and paste them into a reference document you can source for future notes.

Not willing to start from scratch? You don’t have to. I’ve created a whole suite of documentation templates to use in home health, as well as dozens of common phrases to help therapists craft defensible documentation effortlessly.

  1. Master Your Time Management

I don’t know about you, but I disdain sitting in traffic. And backtracking across town all day, while sometimes unavoidable, can be a major pet peeve. But as a home health therapist, you can tweak your schedule to minimize these slowdowns.

One way to do this is to group your patients by location. Simple, right? Identify areas of town with clusters of patients and organize their visit so you can migrate across town as the day progresses. For example, you could schedule the patients that live in the furthest part of town all in the morning, then work your way homeward in the afternoon. That gives you a short-and-sweet drive home at the end of your shift.

This strategy will help you save time, conserve gas or electricity, and skip needless traffic. And it’s easier to accomplish than you may think. Sure, your patients will have to cooperate with your timetable, but an easy trick is to give them a narrower window of choice. For example, if you’d like a certain set of patients to be in the first half of the day, offer them a couple of times within that window: say, 9am or 11am. By keeping coveted afternoon slots off the table, your patients will enjoy the illusion of choice as they state their preference, and you’ll be able to offer the afternoon to the patients that better fit your commuting strategy.

But you can’t control all the variables, including when a patient isn’t available in your window or when they inevitably cancel. A gap in your schedule doesn’t have to be lost time, however. As you wait around for your next appointment, use that borrowed time to catch up on your documentation, run nearby errands, or call a loved one. Stay busy, and you’ll reap the benefits of time well managed.

  1. Prepare to Be Flexible

Compared to working in an outpatient clinic, treating patients in their homes comes with a unique set of challenges. Not only is each space initially unfamiliar, with every visit you have little to no control over certain variables such as cleanliness, quietness, and room to work. The sterile, neat-as-a-pin standard of the clinic just doesn’t replicate in a lived-in domicile. Plus, there’s no equipment where you’re going and no PTA nearby to help. It’s just you, your ingenuity, and your own preparation.

Without ample flexibility, the variables of home health can throw a wrench in your work efficiency. But preparing for them can help you continue to provide top-notch care without missing a beat.

When possible, always keep in mind a backup plan for each aspect of your visit, especially any exercises or treatments. As therapists, we’ve come up with more than one way to measure, test, and treat most conditions. Keep a running list in your head of other exercises you could use in case your patient cannot comply, the space isn’t suitable for what you planned, or—heaven forbid—you forgot to bring your therapy bands.

The more rigid you are to your original plan, the harder it will be for you to quickly find a solution. Instead, preparing to be flexible will help you make the most of every visit and swiftly switch gears without losing momentum.

  1. Cut Through Relicensing Red Tape—or Avoid It Altogether

As a travel therapist, it’s easy to find yourself swimming in paperwork—resumes, applications, contracts, credentialing documents, and more. And once you begin a new contract, there’s the litany of files to provide your recruiter, from vaccination records and drug screens to references and state-issued ID.

All this red tape is easy to cut through if you’re efficient. Work ahead of your next job offer and begin scanning, storing, and organizing all the files you typically need. There’s no need to wrangle with your scanner every few months if the file is already waiting for you on your computer.

For utmost security and efficiency, upload your files to a storage app—such as Kamana, Scanner Pro, and File Manager—that can keep all your sensitive data in a password-protected, organized, and searchable digital wallet.

A new contract aside, what about all the paperwork for working in a new state? Although your recruiter can help you streamline the process of obtaining a new license, the most efficient strategy is to avoid this process altogether by joining a multi-state compact.

For example, Physical Therapists can apply for a PT Compact Privilege, which allows PTs licensed in one state to practice in another state without having to obtain a second license, so long as both states are within the PT Compact. As of this writing, member states include more than half of the US, but this map has the most up-to-date list.   

Similar compacts have been formed for Occupational Therapists and Speech-Language Pathologists, and privileges are rolling out later this year or next. By using a Compact Privilege, you’ll save yourself time and money: not only secondary licensing fees but also the cost of all the continuing education required for that second license. Talk about efficient!

  1. Stay Organized in Your Personal Life

Efficiency at work is best matched by efficiency at home, even if “home” for you is ever evolving. Especially when you’re picking up and moving every few months, it’s easy to let your once-regular routine devolve into a disorganized slurry of work and sleep.

Establishing and following a good routine, no matter where you are, can ensure you get everything done that you need to—work, sleep, meals, and chores—while still making time for what you want to do—sightsee, recreate, and maintain relationships. By economizing your time for the first set of actions, you can enjoy your leisure time fully, achieve a better work/life balance, and ultimately feel less stressed at work.

There’s no template for living an organized life—at least, I don’t have one—but small, daily decisions can make a big difference. Laying out the next day’s clothes before you go to bed, prepping meals for the week on your day off, and scheduling automatic grocery and pharmacy deliveries will help you live as efficiently as you work.

As therapists, our focus is always our patients, not necessarily our personal productivity and efficiency. But working smarter can help improve the quality of care you provide by reducing busywork, lessening stress, and keeping your attention on your patient. It’s never going to be perfect, but an efficient strategy—in documentation, treatment, licensure, and your personal life—will help you make the most of a nomadic career.

If you are interested in putting these home health therapy tips into practice with unmatched freedom, unparalleled support, and top-notch benefits, contact us today and one of our expert recruiters will reach out shortly to get you started!

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Tim Fraticelli is a Physical Therapist, Certified Financial Planner™, and founder of PTProgress.com. He loves to teach PTs and OTs ways to save time and money in and out of the clinic, especially when it comes to therapy documentation or therapy continuing education. Follow him on YouTube for weekly videos on ways to improve your physical and financial health.

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