This is a post by Dean Somerset.
What is an injury rehabilitation practice?
The popularity of post injury rehabilitation in commercial fitness facilities as well as personal training studios and in-home training is reaching a critical mass point. In the previous decade, post-rehab was viewed as a fringe component of fitness, where only a small handful of trainers were willing to work with injury rehabilitation and medical fitness clients, whereas it’s now becoming a staple of most continuing education programs to offer some form of training on injury rehabilitation practices for personal trainers.
Soon, entire facilities will be devoted to medical fitness, and personal trainers will be able to direct-bill insurance companies for their services.
So I’m sure many trainers are wondering how they can get in on this growing segment of the personal training market. First off, I’m going to burst a few bubbles and say that there are a lot of people who should definitely NOT be in post-rehab training. It involves a little bit more in the way of documentation, assessments, and a knowledge base of the anatomical and physiological processes involved in injury rehabilitation. It won’t be Johnny Bench Press who wants to train all his clients to get jacked and swole, show up 2 minutes before (or after) the session is supposed to start and do whatever the hell he feels like doing that day, regardless of whether the client says it hurts or not.
To get the best start of becoming a post-rehab trainer, here are a few things to consider in your personal trainer business plan in order to get the best return on your time and energy:
#1: Learn. And Then Keep Learning
I thought I knew a lot about training clients with total knee reconstructions with varying types of grafts, but in the last year I met with a surgeon who had worked on 6 of my clients, and discovered almost half of what I thought about patellofemoral tendon versus semitendinosus grafts was completely wrong, and changed the way I train each client as a result. Top it off with the fact that you’ll never know everything about anything relating to injury and post-rehab and you’re in for a lot of learning opportunities. Think of it this way: knowing more allows you to solve more problems and get better results for your clients, which means your popularity goes up, and so does your income.
#2: Get Pre-Authorization from Insurance Companies, Where Possible
In most cases, insurance won’t cover personal training, regardless of who you are or how good you are at what you do. This is simply because personal trainers aren’t recognized as a distinct profession with a guiding college. However, there are a lot of insurance rehabilitation coordinators who will supplement the cost of training for some clients. This is only possible if it is with an actively open insurance claim for an injury rehabilitation client. Your triathlon client with really bad IT band pain won’t qualify unless she got it from a work related injury or a motor vehicle accident.
Pre-authorization is possible if you extend a formal letter to the rehabilitation coordinator on the behalf of your potential client. The letter should outline why the client is there – a professional referral from a doctor, physiotherapist or chiropractor will carry more weight than a referral from their best friends – as well as any findings you were able to get from an assessment, a treatment schedule (how long you expect training to take), what kind of benefits they will receive from the program, and an approximate cost.
The big point to drive home here is don’t start training until you hear word from the insurance provider. Simply put, if they discover that their client is training with you without their consent, they have the ability to refuse payment, leaving your client footing the entire bill. However, if they choose to pay for it prior to beginning training, they can authorize and pay in full for the entire amount, or even cover part of the cost. They do have the ability to refuse payment should they deem necessary, so look for pre-authorization as a possibility, not a sure thing.
#3: Include Personal Training as Part of a Treatment Plan for Injury Rehabilitation
Many physiotherapists and chiropractors will include third party services in their treatment plans if it benefits the patient and is something that can be worked into their clinics’ business plan. There are two different options that may work:
1. Have a clinic to purchase a fixed number of sessions at a bulk rate and then sell individual sessions to their patients. 2. Have the patient pay the clinic directly for personal training with you, and then have the clinic cut you a check directly for the services.
This provides two benefits. First, the payment is handled by another party, meaning one less step in your way to successfully training a new client. Second, it is much more easily covered by insurance if it is considered a necessary intervention within the confines of a treatment plan, even if it’s for a third party organization.
#4: Form a Network with Health Professionals
Building a strong relationship with medical professionals who can send you clients on a regular basis is the most powerful and cost-effective method of marketing possible. They essentially say “You need personal training. Go see this guy,” and give the patient your business card. The sale is done, and you’re ready to start training with the highest quality lead possible. Let them see what you do and how you aren’t in direct competition with their business, but a part of the healing continuum when they discharge their patients to your care. By having their patients train with you, they will get better results and have a higher adherence rate than if they were left to their own devices.
A network will also be a great resource for continuing your education, as well as for sending your clients when they come in banged up and pained from the weekend or your last workout. Have the professionalism to send your clients to a physiotherapist or doctor to get a diagnosis. It’s a surefire way to help your injury rehabilitation client while giving you a direction to take their training instead of constantly banging your head against the wall and wondering why you have a migraine.
For individual trainers, a network should include 5 strong referral sources. These will typically send you one client per 3 months, which will result in approximately 20 clients a year from direct medical referrals. A big point to make is that a strong referral source will actually send you these clients every three months. If the source sends you no business, they aren’t a referral source, so move on to someone who will send you business.
#5: Don’t be Afraid to Take Your Time
This is something that will take a reputation of being really good at what you do to actually get a consistent stream of clients coming through the door from referral sources. In the meantime, keep working on learning more, working with your current clients, and developing relationships with potential referral sources.