What Parents Should Look for in an ABA Provider
Parents of children with learning, developmental, and behavioral issues turn towards Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) clinics and practitioners to help their children develop positive behaviors, overcome learning obstacles, and improve their overall lives. But how do they choose the right ABA practitioner? In today’s hyper-competitive behavioral health landscape, ABA clinics are competing for clientele and struggling to build strong and robust practices.
Discovering how to cater your practice to parents is the key to maintaining financial solidarity. Fortunately, parents all want the same thing: what’s best for their children. Unfortunately, this involves the convergence of personal preferences and industry standards. ABA therapy makes a massive impact on the lives of both the parent and child. For many, this makes choosing an ABA practice a nerve-wracking experience. Pickiness is guaranteed.
Here are the key considerations parents look for when choosing an ABA agency.
Certifications, Experience, & Science
ABA is built on the backbones of scientific literature and methodologies. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that parents are often heavily invested in the rigor of ABA practices. Having the correct certifications and hiring experienced ABA therapists is critical. You need to be able to showcase your practice’s capabilities to parents. They are trusting you with their child–your organization needs to make them feel comfortable with their choice.
Obviously, this part can get tricky. How do you show parents that you’re an experienced and scientifically bound practice without shoving 50-page research papers in their faces? We recommend the following:
- Prominently display degrees and certifications on the wall.
- Showcase certifications, experience, and capabilities in marketing and promotional materials.
- Have one-on-one conversations with parents and discuss why ABA works and the science to back up your programs.
- Creating robust blogs that subtly showcase the science of why ABA works
During the selection process, parents will likely ask questions about your practices. Answer those questions as simply and concretely as possible. Remember, many parents come armed with Google-driven questions, and many have done independent research. It’s important to discuss your ABA strategies, inform parents of their benefits, and dispel any myths or misconceptions they may have stumbled across during their late-night Google journeys.
Science and rigor are at the heart of ABA. Helping parents understand (in simple language) the data behind your decisions will make them feel more comfortable. Be prepared to answer any and all questions thrown your way using up-to-date research.
According to Forbes, 86 percent of people are willing to pay more money for a better customer experience-this extends to therapeutic services. Parents will come to you with plenty of questions. You need to discuss treatment options, set expectations, and communicate value. Most parents will interview multiple ABA clinics before choosing the best fit. That sit-down meeting is your chance to convince and convert. Parents expect crystal-clear, no-nonsense communication about your practices, standards, and results.
Don’t be afraid to answer difficult questions. You should prepare to answer questions such as:
- How involved will the parent be in the process?
- What kind of results have you seen with children in your programs?
- How will you determine when children are ready to move on?
- What treatment options are available?
- What difficulties and challenges are common?
If the parent doesn’t bring these things up, you need to bring them up. Here’s the secret: you want to take this meeting as an opportunity to vet the parent. You don’t want just any client. Churn in the ABA space can be damaging to the child’s overall behavior. Suddenly cutting off lessons can do more damage than good. So, you don’t want to accept parents who aren’t serious and committed to ABA. If a parent churns, you’ll likely lose money, see negative reviews, and be forced to explain your actions across various social channels.
You want to avoid this at all costs. Communication helps parents figure out whether you’re a good fit. But it also helps you figure out if they’re a good fit. The ABA process works both ways. Everyone needs to be committed, involved, and ready for the long-haul.
Friendliness & Reliability
While it may sound cheesy, the friendliness of your staff is a key consideration for parents. Warm introductions, smiling faces, and calm voices create incredible bonds. Positivity is contagious. It should go without saying that parents want to introduce their children to friendly environments. But creating a friendly and happy workplace goes far beyond first impressions. It helps you keep your entire practice productive and engaged, and it certainly prevents friction-filled moments between practitioners and children.
There are some immediate steps you can take to make your agency more friendly (e.g., training, rewards, culture, etc.), but it also comes down to hiring. Don’t hire grumpy therapists. Negative behaviors are infectious.
Some ABA practics only have in-home sessions. For those that have offices or treatment centers consider how your space reflects your practice’s professionalism and mission.
Everyone wants to frequent clean, clutter-free establishments. The “Halo Effect” (i.e., if something is good-looking on the outside, it must offer something intriguing on the inside) of your clinic draws in parents. If you run a clean, dusted, and well-arranged space, parents will take notice. The impact of practice aesthetics is well-documented. One Health Design paper suggests that creating clean and well-designed practice spaces improve outcomes reduces staff stress. Another eBook (also from the experts at Health Design)– compiled hundreds of studies into one resource — promises more foot-traffic, higher satisfaction, and a higher willingness to pay when the aesthetics of your practice are improved.
The importance of aesthetics is self-evident. Have you ever frequented a restaurant that was dirty and cluttered? It certainly impacted how you “felt” about that establishment, right? The same can be said for any type of business. Remember, parents are entrusting you with the future of their children. How can they trust you if they feel like your establishment isn’t run efficiently?
Efficiency & Professionalism
Well-run ABA agencies sell themselves. If you’re struggling with the intake process, taking unnecessary time to bill patients, and dealing with billing mistakes, those frictions reflect on your practice. Some studies suggest that as many as four out of every five medical bills contain errors. For massive healthcare systems, loss of patients due to anger with these bills is likely unnoticeable. Most people go to the hospital when they need to, and they may have limited choices on which doctor they can choose.
ABA practices don’t share those protective layers. When parents get receive a bill with an error, deal with scheduling mistakes, or face eligibility roadblocks, they can quickly move to another practice. Professionalism resonates throughout your business. You can “sense” the efficiency of a place based on behaviors, cleanliness, and your initial touchpoints.
Maximizing your practice efficiency saves you time, money, and headaches, sure. But it also prevents parents from fleeing your practice in favor of more efficient agencies.
Let’s ignore COVID-19 for a moment. It’s a blip in time. Remote care is about the future. Some ABA sessions, such as family training, can be conducted via telehealth. For ABA practices with speech therapists or other professional services on offer, remote sessions may work as well.
For parents dealing with an autistic child, scheduling is challenging. ABA requires ongoing, time-sensitive sessions for years. Expecting parents to set aside their lives and make every session isn’t always reasonable — especially if your practice exists outside of a school setting.
McKinsey estimates that over $250 billion of healthcare spend could be virtualized by the end of 2020. We estimate that a sizable portion of ABA spend will follow suit. Parents want to connect with talented ABA therapists from the comfort of their homes. Often times, this is a space where children feel most secure. If you aren’t offering telehealth and remote ABA services, you could see your margins shrink rapidly over the next year. This isn’t an optional and disruptive practice. It’s becoming a de facto component in the modern ABA lifecycle.
Insurance, Price, & Distance (The “Uncontrollables”)
So far, we’ve covered variables that you have direct control over. But what about the ones you don’t? Whether you accept their insurance providers, the price you set, and the distance you are from their workplace are semi-uncontrollable. Your price takes many variables into account. You may have better-trained practitioners, a more expensive location, or higher overhead than some competitors. The credentialing process combined with state requirements may dictate which insurance providers you accept. And your distance from their house or work is entirely out of your control.
It’s important to understand that these all impact parents’ decisions. That’s ok! You will inevitably lose clients due to some of these uncontrollable factors. Don’t stress out about it. Obviously, the problem with uncontrollable variables is that it’s hard to tell if they’re the reason parents aren’t picking you. 91 percent of people who abandon a company never complain. So, you need to keep your finger to the pulse.
Uncontrollables can force parents to give an automatic “no.” But they shouldn’t do significant damage to your business. Every ABA practice has uncontrollable variables. If you feel like your practice is suffering from a lack of patients, look beyond uncontrollable for the solutions (unless you charge significantly above-market prices).
Hint: Incorporating automation and outsourced billing can substantially reduce your costs, which you can pass on to parents to reduce your overall pricing burden.
Pleasing Parents With World-Class Practice Management Solutions
The truth is: parents are looking for many of the same things we all look for in a business. Stability, friendliness, professionalism, efficiency, price, and distance are all top concerns for parents. To stay financially stable in today’s hyper-competitive ABA environment, ABA agencies should invest in world-class practice management solutions. Yes!
Experience and science matter in the ABA setting. And there is plenty of fine-tuning you can do to make your practice more valuable and meaningful to your clients and their families. But perfecting the core tenants (i.e., professionalism, efficiency, price, friendliness, etc.) is the key to winning parents.
Practice management software helps you minimize downtimes, maximize efficiencies, and automate redundant and time-consuming components of running an ABA clinic. Spend time talking about the value of ABA with parents, not dealing with billing or scheduling issues.
Software also provided a better client experience with features like payment processing, a parent portal, mobile apps that allow your therapists to collect signatures on the spot. and more.
Contact the CodeMetro team to learn how we can help your organization evolve.