Home health PT with an elderly patient

3 Tips from a Home Health Therapist

Whether you just started a travel assignment in home health or you accepted a permanent position, a little efficiency will help you get the most out of your new job. Here are a few tips I learned along the way as a home health PT.

Keys to Success as a Home Health Therapist

1. Be Proactive with Scheduling

Of all the work opportunities you’ll have as a therapist, home health therapy is by far one of the most flexible. Generally speaking, you’ll control how your schedule flows throughout the day and may even set your own day-to-day work hours.

But a flexible schedule is only good if it’s organized. To really maximize your work efficiency, be proactive with how you fill up your calendar.

One way to do this is to be strategic in your initial phone call with each patient. As a home health PT, whenever I call a new patient to schedule their evaluation, I give them just a couple of appointment options. For instance, I’ll offer to come out for the evaluation at 9 AM or 10 AM. I found that, if they have a conflict, they’ll quickly tell me, but since they’re homebound, chances are that one of the two times will work.

I’m a proponent of narrowing down time slots like this because it keeps the PT in the driver’s seat while also giving the patient some choice in the matter. If you offer up your entire day to your patients, everyone will want an afternoon time, after they’ve had lunch or taken their nap, and you’ll have a hard time filling up your morning schedule.

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Simply put, you cannot schedule everyone in the afternoon just because they’re “not a morning person.” So be proactive and offer up specific time slots instead of your entire afternoon.

2. Efficiency is Key

A strategic schedule is just one way to help your day go smoothly as a home health therapist. Another way to optimize your schedule is to group patients by location.

As you book new patients, you can organize your day to maximize fuel efficiency and also suit your own preferences. Try to schedule your visits so you avoid long commutes between patients and bypass busy areas at rush hour times. Personally, I prefer to do the bulk of my driving earlier in the day and save a shorter drive for my way home. To that end, I try to schedule nearby patients towards the end of the day so I can get home quickly and finish my notes sooner. 

Speaking of notes, better documentation efficiency can help you improve your note-writing and save you time at home. While home health documentation can be tedious, writing will become easier once you’ve gotten used to the new system and even developed your own. I suggest creating example phrases or documentation templates to remind yourself of key components to include in your notes, like a “pre-flight checklist.” As you systematize your writing and become more efficient, you’ll watch your documentation time shrink.

3. Have a Plan of Action

Part of what makes home health so interesting is the variety of patients and environments we experience every day. With this variety come surprises, both good and bad. You won’t know what the patient’s home environment will be like until you set foot in their living room, but with a little preparation, you won’t miss a beat.

Before you head to your patient’s house, make sure your treatment plan incorporates equipment you can safely bet will already be there. Chairs, stairs, and countertops can instantly transform a house into a therapy clinic. So as you get to know the patient and their environment, look for opportunities and identify areas where they could safely perform your exercises.

Granted, there will be days when your patient will not feel up to performing therapy, but a backup plan will help you make the most of your time with them. Try to keep up your sleeve a series of exercises you know the patient could perform in a chair or in their bed. Remember, creativity is key!

You should always have a plan for your treatments, but don’t forget to plan for the inevitable cancellation as well. It can really throw a wrench in your day when someone refuses treatment. But don’t let it get you down! Use that time to work on documentation notes for other patients or to run a few errands while you’re out.

Final Thoughts

In the home health setting, no two days are alike—which is what makes it so great, in my opinion! Plus, there’s something especially rewarding in helping people stay active in their own homes. If you’re like me, strategizing your schedule, optimizing your commute, and creating action plans will help you turn home health therapy into a job you love to do every day.

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 continuing education for therapists. Follow him on YouTube for weekly videos on ways to improve your physical and financial health.

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