There are many ways to begin to establish connections with local health care providers and medical practices. Try any and all of these:
- Ideally, you work in a fitness facility that has developed a formal association with a local health care system or medical practice. Health care systems that have made a commitment to support healthy lifestyles for both patients and providers may offer various interventions, particularly as part of population health programming. Incorporating Exercise is Medicine® means that a practice has integrated the Physical Activity Vital Sign (PAVS) into the electronic health record (EHR) to assess whether the patient is meeting the National Physical Activity Guidelines. They have also set up a systematic referral process to allow patients to access physical activity resources (programs, places or professionals) in the community or within the health care system. Ask your club manager to approach clinic leadership at a nearby medical facility to offer exercise services through a formal partnership. Sometimes there are discounted memberships for employees of the health care system. Doing a good job with these clients and sending concise progress notes that can be scanned and entered into the EHR will position you as an extended member of the health care team.
- Health care providers appreciate brief “meet and greets.” A short face-to-face meeting helps to establish a personal connection. You may be able to catch a provider for a few minutes during lunch or invite them to an open house or lunch at your fitness facility. Put together a packet to include your business cards, flyers for patients, and a handwritten card.
- Your resume or marketing piece should be concise and highlight your most impressive education, certifications and skills. Indicate where you provide services (patient’s home, specific fitness facility, etc.). You might include one or two brief testimonials from satisfied providers or patients. This piece may be provided to interested patients at the time of their medical appointments. If the medical practice keeps a list of community resources for patients, your goal is to get on that list as a credible physical activity professional.
- If a client has made good progress, ask if they would be willing to share this information with their health care provider. Write a summary progress note that they can take with them to their next appointment. If a provider has 2 or 3 patients getting healthier and more active as a result of their work with you, that’s one of the best sources of advertising. Results speak volumes. Follow up by contacting the office and leaving your information/business cards with the provider’s medical assistant; indicate the you have been working with several patients from the practice already.
- With the development of the National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), there may be opportunities to provide small group exercise or personal training services to class participants. Since these individuals have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes and possibly other cardiac risk factors, it is that imperative exercise professionals have the knowledge and skills to work safely with these populations and possess either a clinical fitness certification or the EIM Credential. Visit the DPP website to find out how to become a DPP lifestyle coach or identify local programs that might need fitness services. To facilitate a DPP program for Medicare participants, it is necessary to have a National Provider Identifier (NPI) number. Clinical exercise physiologists are listed in the NPI code. If you don’t already have an NPI number, now is the time to get one.
- Attend community lectures or events given by physicians and other health care providers, particularly around a topic of relevance regarding physical activity and health outcomes. Introduce yourself at the end, ask a thoughtful question about the topic, and ask if you could help them and their patients. Briefly share your educational qualifications and special training. Have business cards handy and indicate where you train clients (at a club, in their homes, etc.). Providers will be most impressed if you are knowledgeable, yet respectful and eager to learn more.
- Physicians who exercise are more likely to recommend physical activity to their patients. If you work closely with health care providers who use your fitness facility, ask them if they would be willing to refer appropriate patients to you or to a program within the facility. Ask what would make that process easy for them and their patient. Perhaps they could introduce you to a colleague or member of their medical team with whom you could discuss this in more depth.
- Many health care providers are more likely to refer to a specialty program that meets the needs of their patients, rather than an individual personal trainer. Develop, deliver and promote an Exercise is Medicine program at your fitness facility. EIM programs must meet certain criteria and be facilitated by exercise professionals with the EIM Credential. Small group exercise programs tailored to individuals who are not typically served by many fitness facilities (those with chronic diseases, older clients, etc.) provide needed social support, guidance and structure.
- Check to see if there is a Walk with a Doc program in your community. In this program physicians generously share their time and go for a walk with patients, usually on a weekend morning. Join the walk, be friendly, and encourage the participants. Introduce yourself to any clinicians who are present and offer to assist with the program if needed, or to work individually with any patients.
- Volunteer to lend your expertise to community fitness activities sponsored by a local hospital or clinic. Write an article for a hospital health/wellness newsletter or website blog on the benefits of exercise for a specific medical condition, include brief training tips and your contact information. Partner with clinicians to give community presentations. Get your name out there!
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