Market Focus: Physical Therapists
As patients, we often turn to physical therapists when seeking treatment for back pain, debilitating injuries or trauma rehabilitation. According to Julie Hilgenberg, advertising manager for the Alexandria, Va.–based American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), efficiently and effectively reaching therapists requires an understanding for and appreciation of the tendency for these professionals to be well-educated, compassionate and interested in learning the latest trends in therapy technology, business management, and treatment methods and modalities.
The 2008-2009 edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook reports there are more than 172,000 physical therapist positions in the U.S., 52,000 in private or public hospitals, and about 17,000 in home health care settings. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that therapists’ median annual earnings for 2006 were $66,200. Physical therapists in private practice or other venues often teach, conduct research or work a second job in hospitals or for home health care agencies. In addition, the physical therapy field is expected to grow 27 percent from 2006 to 2016, largely because technology is increasing survival rates among trauma survivors and infants born with birth defects.
Physical therapists are regularly required to earn continuing education credits, and in recent years, hospitals and professional organizations have placed increased emphasis on establishing more detailed best practices and therapeutic modalities for therapy sub-specialties.
While there are some purchasing similarities when comparing this market with occupational therapists and chiropractors, physical therapists represent a separate field with distinct sub-specialties. To effectively reach them, it is beneficial to understand the differences between physical therapists, occupational therapists and chiropractors, as well as the differences in the physical therapy sub-specialties. Physical therapists provide services that help improve mobility, relieve pain, and limit or prevent permanent physical disabilities in patients who have an injury or disease. According to Donald Tepper, editor of PT Magazine, published by the APTA, these professionals treat accident victims and patients with lower back pain, arthritis, heart disease, bone fractures, head injuries and cerebral palsy, among others. When marketing to therapists, keep in mind that some treat a wide range of injuries and others specialize in pediatrics, geriatrics, orthopedics, sports medicine, neurology or cardiopulmonary physical therapy.