PT Classroom - Proactive Patient Appreciation ׀ by Nitin Chhoda, PT, DPT


Nitin Chhoda PT, DPT, received his Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree from the University of New England. He is a successful private practice owner and private practice consultant based in Denville, NJ. He conducts workshops, online courses and writes books and articles on private practice marketing.     



Proactive Patient Appreciation

Patient appreciation should be proactive, not reactive. A small, unannounced surprise gift can spur actions from patients that would otherwise have been withheld. If you were asked to fill out a survey which included an incentive even before you took the survey (a discount coupon or voucher for a product or service), the survey completion rate will increase. Compare this with an after-the-fact reward which is less likely to work.

Sending patients an unannounced gift can be more effective than giving them an incentive to take an action (refer their friends). In his book "Influence - Science and Practice", Robert Cialdini cites a 1992 study that showed that mailing a $5 gift check along with an insurance survey was twice as effective as offering a $50 incentive for sending back a completed survey.

After accepting a gift, a consumer is more likely to take an action (that they would NOT have otherwise taken) such as telling their physician about how happy they are with your services or recommending friends and family to you. The give and take social interaction is an ingrained feature since childhood.

Proactive patient appreciation can elicit a feeling of reciprocity that makes patients and referral sources more likely to work with you. Appreciating and nurturing existing patients to refer family and friends is as important as getting new patients.

Once you have patients, you want to provider them with the highest quality of care possible, using evidence based practices and advanced assessment and treatment techniques. In addition, you want to systematically nurture each patient to become a raving fan and a referral source for your practice.

The following strategies will help you retain more patients and increase referrals from existing patients.

a) Talking to patients when they visit your clinic, addressing them by their first name and being friendly. The sweetest sound for a person is the sound of their own name. A phone call from the therapist to the patient at the end of the day, after the initial evaluation has a far greater impact than a congratulatory note to the patient at the end of their treatment. It increase patient compliance and helps you to set your practice apart.

b) Calling present and past patients once a month and staying in touch, thanking them for being a patient and reminding them that you are always available to serve them.

c) Send patients unannounced gifts in the mail to maintain contact and encourage reciprocity. Preferably, these gifts should be books, audio CDs and DVDs that are original and created by your practice, so they position you as an expert. You can also offer them educational reports, links to websites filled with information that is practical and easy to implement.

d) Organizing an annual ‘patient appreciation day’ where you invite present and past patients to attend. Have a stage or a podium, deliver a heartfelt, sincere speech and thank patients for their trust in you and support of your business. Remind them that your number one goal is quality patient care, since you adhere to the highest standards of clinical excellence. Reiterate that the best way for them to thank you is to refer their friends and family, and thank their physicians for the referral. Invite success stories to come up on stage and share their experiences so everyone attending can listen to the social proof and testimonials. Reward patients for their achievements and promote your practice at the same time.

e) Give patients an exercise and accountability journal and make it mandatory for them to fill it out, so you can monitor and track their progress when they are away from your clinic. Include gift coupons and complimentary consultation offers in these books, and position them as “8 coupons worth $1000 inside – feel free to pass them along to your family and friends”. You don't have to do an evaluation, but a brief discussion with the prospective patient about the benefits of physical therapy and what you have to offer can be termed a complimentary consultation.

These low cost and no cost strategies will work well to proactively persuade your patients to refer. Once he is able to master his own craft and clinical skills, a successful private practice owner must explore systems to proactively communicate with patients and referral sources.


To learn more about private practice and marketing you can visit Nitins' websites at where you can download his free 4 step formula on how to attract new patients, increase referrals and grow your referral network with a simple 4 step plan and  where you can download a free book on physical therapy marketing.


Last revised: March 15, 2011
by Nitin Chhoda, PT, DPT

Terms & Conditions

Please review our terms and conditions carefully before utilization of the Site. The information on this Site is for informational purposes only and should in no way replace a conventional visit to an actual live physical therapist or other healthcare professional. It is recommended that you seek professional and medical advise from your physical therapist or physician prior to any form of self treatment.