Technical writing and other written work are imperative within a contemporary outpatient clinic between physical therapists, physical trainers, and other support staff within a physical therapy and wellness facility.
Mr. Christopher Simpson is a personal trainer with two Bachelor of Science Degrees in Kinesiology and Biology and is director of wellness within his place of work, an outpatient physical therapy and wellness clinic. He has told me that he is in control of all the website work and publication to potential clients. He is also head of the new form of clinic reporting and charting within his business, Web PT.
This business is not like many other physical therapy clinics I have worked with. This outpatient clinic is not just a clinic but also a place of normal exercise for other personal trainers, maintenance programs, Pilates, yoga, other fitness classes, weight loss programs, and a lot more. I thought this would be a great contrast from the clinic I had recently interned with this past school session.
I interviewed Chris Simpson instead of the owner of this clinic because everyone who I spoke to for an interview about technical writing suggested Chris. As we spoke, I was surprised about the many differences on how this clinic runs compared to other clinics, in and outpatient. Chris agrees that “technical writing is very important for any physical therapist and physical therapy assistant (PTA), but also other wellness professionals.” He believes that physical therapists and other wellness professionals “have to be able to properly write protocols, instructions, and reports because many people may not understand a program if not written clearly.” Besides the regular progress notes and daily reports, his clinic provides their discharged patients with personal home exercise programs that list different exercises that the therapist wants the patients to perform, how to perform them, along with pictures of those exercises.
As mentioned before, this clinic uses a program which I have not seen used before in other clinics called Web PT. It is a computer based system of documentation that has countless ways of customizing flowcharts for physical therapists and other therapy professionals. Chris described this system also lets the “workers document a patient’s exercise program for each session on an iPad and multiple computers, without big paper files for each patient” like most clinics. The therapists also can use Web PT “to send faxes and emails to other physicians and insurance companies in a safe and secure way.” This system of therapy documentation is great in all the right ways. Honestly, when I have the opportunity to run my own clinic, I would love to use this system or something like it.
As this system keeps the employees’ lives easier, Chris is in charge of the business’s website and Facebook page. He likes to keep the website updated if not monthly, at least quarterly. For the Facebook page, this business keeps clients and others up-to-date about events like 5K runs, healthcare programs, and wellness fairs for people to participate in. Even with these mediums, most people have told me, including Chris, that their business is mostly spread through word-of-mouth.
From all I learned from my interview, I think visiting with Chris and some of the other employees helped me understand the diversity of this clinic within just one town. The efficiency of reports and exercises program scheduling is outstanding, and I only hope that I can run a clinic with the same standards as this physical therapy and wellness clinic.
Michelle Provenza, guest blogger
The technical writing and work an inpatient physical therapist needs to complete outside the hands-on work with the patients.
Dr. Cindy Morgan has over 26 years physical therapy experience and has been head of her department over a decade. With these many years under her belt, she has worked with countless types of patients through her doors. She’s also had many different types of forms and reports to fill out throughout her career from insurance filing, patient progress notes, hospital transfers, and others that other healthcare representatives need for a patient.
While interning with her and other therapists at the inpatient clinic, I have been told numerous times by her and her staff to be concise. Dr. Morgan says that conciseness is the most important part of writing for all of the different types of reports. Within the hospital setting, so many different people review a single, large folder for a patient. These staff members include: nurses, doctors, therapists, x-ray technicians who write notes each day on how the patient was doing or any new events or problems have arisen during the past day. These folders have a summary of the patients’ overall medical history made as soon as a patient arrives to the hospital. These summaries are for the different staff members to review before visiting the patient in person. There is a specific form in which the therapist in charge of the patient writes the initial evaluation. On the opposite side of that form, there is the discharge summary for that patient when he or she is discharged from the hospital or transferred to another place of healthcare like hospice or a nursing facility.
Outside the realm of the patient’s folder, there are several other aspects to a therapist’s work that are required for a department to operate and communicate well. Dr. Morgan has daily morning meetings with her inpatient therapy staff to discuss who are getting new patients, who’s covering for other therapists who may be out, who needs help with their workload, and other things of that nature. Dr. Morgan and her staff also have monthly department meetings to discuss safety, communication between different departments and their staff, and other things she thinks that needs to be discussed more in-depth. Along with these meeting within the hospital, there is also other forms of new therapy and communication skills to be learned through internet education from her company and outside conferences offered through American Physical Therapist Association (APTA). Dr. Morgan believes it is important for her staff to communicate effectively and concisely between each other to avoid misunderstanding for patients’ care.
Many people may think that a facility like an impatient clinic gets all kinds of new equipment all the time but in fact, that all depends on the hospital’s budget. If the hospital is sponsored or well-funded by a school or other large companies, there may be money for a therapy clinic to get new technology but typically, most hospitals have to pay for a lot more things besides the therapy department. Dr. Morgan says that if there is broken equipment, the equipment is usually fixed in timely manner but there isn’t too much money for brand new equipment for each year. Most clinics are like this, inpatient and outpatient. That doesn’t mean that Dr. Morgan doesn’t get numerous calls and emails for new products from different outside companies. Many of these companies try to sell products to her department but there are not many occasions when she absolutely needs them or can afford many of these products when the money they do have goes to fixing their current equipment. However, that doesn’t mean that they never get new equipment. Recently, one of Dr. Morgan’s occupational therapists was able to convince the hospital to purchase a product that makes bed transfers enormously easier for the medical staff. It is now standard to use this product when the therapy does transfers between beds or to cardio chairs, therapy reclining chairs.
With all these daily responsibilities for Dr. Morgan, it is no wonder that she typically stays at least an hour, sometimes two hours, after seeing patients to write daily progress reports, insurance forms, call back other healthcare professionals, and other companies trying to sell her products. This interview with the head of a therapy department within an acute care hospital is invaluable to my learning experience to becoming a physical therapist because I do want to run my own department or clinic in the too far future after physical therapy school. I really appreciate the time Dr. Cindy Morgan took to speak with me and hope to learn more from her throughout my continuing education.
Michelle Provenza, guest blogger.