Should Home Health Agencies Outsource PT, OT and ST Therapy?

This is a decision that will depend on your agency’s individual needs. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.

PROS:  Outsourcing your agency’s therapy can be a cost-effective solution if approached correctly. It can allow your agency to grow while decreasing administrative overhead burdens and eliminating the need to pay salaries for therapists with less-than-full caseloads.

Outsourcing therapy means your provider will take over many of your staff’s current responsibilities. These can include:
• therapist recruitment
• on-boarding and keeping HR files up to date
• training therapists to your charting software
• handling therapist questions
• managing weekly schedules including the scheduling and coordinating of discharges and 30 day ReAssessments
• chasing in overdue visit notes and QA corrections
• managing insurance authorizations

Outsourcing will also give you access to a larger pool of therapists to facilitate any reassignments in case of therapist emergencies, maternity leaves or personality conflicts.

Furthermore, having an outsourcing strategy will reduce expensive benefits and overtime, and allow your agency to cost-effectively manage slow periods.

CONS:  Outsourcing can leave you feeling like you have little control over the therapists seeing your patients. Because these therapists are not employed directly by you they will likely not attend your office meetings and not have a feel for your company culture and brand. Ideally you should speak with any therapists before they see your patients to introduce your company and set expectations. You may want to consider giving them a name badge to wear for continuity of your agency’s brand.

You may have office staff and staff therapists who do not understand why your agency is considering outsourcing and may feel their jobs will be negatively impacted. To ease any concerns, it is important to communicate your reasons for outsourcing so they see the benefits for themselves and the company.

TIPS FOR SUCCESS:  Each solution has its merits and your needs will likely change as your agency grows. If you do decide to outsource your therapy staffing it is important to choose a proactive and communicative therapy provider. Make sure that they have a dedicated administrative team who are always ready to answer your questions. Some smaller therapy staffing providers are therapists themselves who spend their days in the field making it far less likely that they can answer your calls or return emails timely. Ask yourself if you could see yourself working closely with the provider: are they organized, responsive and easy to work with?

Once you select a therapy staffing provider make sure to communicate your expectations upfront and orient the provider to your policies and procedures. For example, tell them when your case conferences are held so they can participate. Today it’s easy to verify a company’s reputation online. Read reviews on Google and social media and make sure the company has more than a handful of reviews that come from home health agencies and therapists alike. You want to make sure agencies are satisfied with the level of service provided but also that the therapists are happy with their employer.

You also don’t have to outsource all your therapy, and perhaps a hybrid solution works better for your agency: for example, you can outsource only your PTA visits and retain a staff PT.

Don’t start off by giving your therapy provider a full caseload. Instead, start them out with just a few patients to see if they truly deliver on all their customer service promises and if you work well together.

Remember to enter into the world of outsourcing with a mindset of collaboration and team work. Issues will always arise (it’s home health after all!) and creating a positive work environment between your agency and your therapy staffing provider will ensure problems are resolved quickly and efficiently.

Ultimately, you must weigh the pros and cons against your agency’s needs for today and for the future. Turning to outsourcing can be a great strategy as long as steps are taken to ensure successful implementation.