Physical Therapy PT

14 Steps to Starting Your Own Physical Therapy Practice

Do you dream of starting your own physical therapy (PT) practice after graduating from your Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree program? Compared to working as an employee in a clinic, owning your own PT practice gives you more autonomy, helps you grow as an entrepreneur and clinician, and offers the potential for higher income. However, launching a business also means putting in longer hours, filling out more paperwork, and learning a whole business skill set on top of your clinical skill set. Just remember that you don’t have to do it all by yourself; you can get advice from your mentor and hire experts to help. Here’s a detailed (but by no means comprehensive) list of 14 steps to opening your own practice.

1. Research the market.

Research who your patients would be. Who needs PT in your area (their age range and occupations), why they need it (acute and chronic conditions they’re dealing with), and what types of PT they need (manual techniques or stretching/strengthening exercises). You can even survey prospective clients directly, asking them what it would take for them to choose your clinic. Also check out your competitors: their size, structure, locations, services, and length of time in business. What can your physical therapy clinic offer that is different or better than what they provide?

2. Choose your niche.

In your private practice, do you intend to focus on sports injuries, workplace injuries, pediatrics, geriatrics, post-surgical rehabilitation, chronic pain, or other PT specialties? Will your PT practice emphasize manual physical therapy, PT modalities, stretching and strengthening, or all of the above? Will your practice be staffed solely with physical therapists, or will you bring in other rehabilitative science practitioners—such as occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists—within an interprofessional care team?

3. Decide on the basic business structure.

Do you want to start a physical therapy practice on your own, go in together with other physical therapists, open a franchise, or purchase an existing private practice? Another option is partnering with a gym or a large corporation that wants to offer PT onsite. Research the options and their tax implications. You could set up your PT business as a sole proprietorship, a PLLC (an LLC for licensed professionals), or an S corp.

4. Choose the method of compensation.

Will your physical therapy practice be cash-based or insurance-based? If the latter, be sure to research the terms of the insurance contract with each provider. Also, will your office manager handle billing, or will you use a third-party service? There are pros and cons to each option, so do your homework.

5. Develop a marketing plan.

Start with choosing a business name and getting a logo and business cards designed. Map out a strategy involving digital channels such as a website, social media, and possibly a blog. And don’t forget print materials like brochures and postcards and, if feasible, radio or television ads. Consider creating a customer incentive/loyalty plan. Meet with local physicians to let them know about your services, and make it easy for them to schedule patients with you.

6. Develop a business plan.

A business plan serves as a roadmap for the growth and evolution of your business. It can help you secure funding and keep you on track with your goals. It should describe your services, your market research, the competitive landscape, your marketing plan (see above), operational details, your management team, a budget for the first year, details about compensation, and a financial summary. Be sure to include costs for insuring your clinic.

7. Secure financing.

Once your business plan is in place, you can secure loans or investments from banks, angel investors, family members, and friends. Consider crowdfunding, with incentives (such as free PT treatments) for each level. Other options include borrowing money against your personal retirement accounts or taking out a second mortgage—but be careful not to get in too deep.

8. Determine your location.

Start looking for your space after you know how much startup money is available. Think about factors like visibility, proximity to potential referral sources (e.g., doctors, fitness centers), ease of parking, how much space you really need (with room to grow), length of lease, too-close proximity to competitors, and renovations that might be needed now or down the road.

9. Fill out all the necessary paperwork.

Set up a professional limited liability company (PLLC) or other business structure. Get your EIN from the IRS, make sure your therapists’ license is up to date, purchase professional liability insurance coverage, and set up a business bank account and credit card. Consult with an attorney to make sure you understand HIPAA. Also, you will need to prepare documents for your patients to fill out: medical histories, insurance forms, pain maps, HIPAA disclosures, etc.

10. Begin searching for and hiring staff.

Spread the word to your former classmates and current colleagues who are good physical therapists. Gauge their interest in joining your practice and ask them for referrals. Of course, even if you know them personally, be sure to properly vet candidates through an extensive interview process, background checks, etc. Hire an office manager who is competent, kind, and friendly and who can be the face of your practice. Consider hiring therapists and staff from different cultures and racial/ethnic backgrounds as a way to promote diversity in healthcare and increase relatability with diverse patients.

11. Design the space.

A professional architect and designer will help you maximize your square footage while capturing your vision of your clinic. Plan the floor layout for a positive environment and an efficient patient flow. Consider your color scheme and whether images on the walls will relate to physical therapy or be more abstract.

12. Purchase the equipment you’ll need.

Make a list of the physical therapy equipment you will need, such as hi-lo treatment tables, ultrasound units, TENS units, laser therapy units, exercise balls, resistance bands, weights, and more. Also purchase new computers for staff and comfortable furniture for patients and staff.

13. Find the right software.

To keep track of patient scheduling, records, and billing, consider software programs such as an electronic health record system, a patient portal, a payment platform, scheduling software, accounting software, and possibly customer relationship management software. Hire an expert to get your IT system up and running.

14. Celebrate!

You’re almost ready to open the doors to your own physical therapy business. It’s no doubt been a lot of work, but you are gaining valuable skills and knowledge as you go, and you’re about to enjoy the rewards of true career autonomy and practice ownership!

 

The largest PT school in the United States,* the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers a hands-on Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. Practice with mock and real patients in our state-of-the-art simulation centers and learn anatomy with our high-tech tools. Prepare for clinical practice with a wide range of patients, as well as advanced roles in research, practice leadership, and policymaking. Residential and Flex (online/weekend) paths are available.

*Based on total DPT degrees conferred, as reported by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Data is captured by IPEDS through interrelated surveys conducted annually by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/

 

References

Dodd Caldwell, “18 Steps to Starting Your Own Physical Therapy Business,” Moon Clerk, June 1, 2017: https://www.moonclerk.com/how-to-start-a-physical-therapy-business/

Heidi Jannenga, “Physical Therapists’ Guide to Starting an Outpatient Clinic,” WebPT, February 12, 2019: https://www.webpt.com/how-to-start-a-physical-therapy-clinic

 

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