By Mrs. Charlotte Fudge, MSN,RN,CCM,BCBA
We all know how much we spend on therapy services each month. Unless of course you are like me, you just know how many hours of speech therapy your son is receiving and hope that they forget to send the bill. That has not happened yet, but I keep hoping.
The real question today is how do you track the benefits of the therapy your child is receiving? To add to that, how do you know that the myriad of therapies that your child is receiving are integrated and working with and not against each other? Truthfully these are difficult things to track but it is up to us as parents to do so.
What we would then need is a set of benchmarks to gauge our therapy benefits. The ONLY way to do this is to analyze the data being presented just as you would do if you wanted to run the mile faster. As hard as it may be to do, you almost need to take a business approach to the therapies that your child is receiving.
If we looked at our payments for therapies as expenses (which they are) and the benefits received as income, we could create our own virtual income statement as to the success of our ‘investment’. Viola, we can now look at everything objectively, as opposed to our gut feelings (which by the way are normally right). In financial terms, how do you know that your dollars invested in therapy are being properly utilized?
The four main criteria or questions are:
- How do you really know which therapies are benefiting or hindering your child’s progress?
- What benchmarks are you using to judge your child’s therapies success?
- What metrics/data collection tools are you using to keep score or track?
- Are all your therapies integrated and benefiting your child? In other words is everyone working towards common goals and ensuring that therapies are helping each other? (For example, if your speech therapist is teaching your child to sign for what they want and your behavior therapist is using picture exchange for communication – there this will decrease the likelihood of your child ever communicating effectively.
Everyone’s needs and therapies are different but here are some ideas on what to think about for each of the main criteria:
- WRITE DOWN your questions, criteria, benchmarks, data and anything else that revolve around your therapy services. You cannot have too much written information. If you write it down, you make it real and it is always easy to see visually on paper whether something makes sense or not.
- Determine exactly what therapies you are receiving and exactly what benefits/improvements you are looking to see from each of those therapies. ‘I just want him/her to be more social’ is not specific enough. ‘I want him/her to engage in 2-3 social conversations with his/her peers on a daily basis’ is being more specific.
- Determine the benchmarks for success. In other words, what goals need to be reached, in order to deem that portion of your child’s therapy a success? An example would be reducing tantrums to 0 incidents for three consecutive months or increasing positive social interactions by 50% of the current amount.
- Take data. Take as much data as feasibly possible, especially when beginning any new therapy. Make sure that your data tracks the goals that you have set.
- Make sure that all your therapists are aware of the other services that you are receiving, and more importantly the goals that you are setting. They need to talk to each other, not just to you. If they do not have a clear idea of those goals, they may unintentionally hinder the achievement of those goals. For example, if you are ready to start toilet training but your therapists aren’t you could have a mess on your hands …literally.
- Develop a set of tools and systems that EVERYONE, including therapists can use to keep everyone informed of the therapy and progress that has been achieved already.
Hopefully this will help create a ‘healthy therapy income statement’. It will definitely make you more aware of the services that are being provided and it will give you a far clearer idea of what needs to be done versus what is actually getting done.