This blog entry will discuss the basics of starting your own private occupational therapy private practice. Topics that will be covered include: Business planning; legalities; insurance credentialing; practice location; marketing; mentorship; and management of administrative needs.
Are you an occupational therapist who is business savvy? Do you want to contribute to your community by helping meet unmet needs? Private practice may be for you. Depending on the services provided, one OT private practice may look and operate completely different than another. However, there are several essential components necessary to get underway.
The first step is often to consider your vision for your occupational therapy private practice. What population do you want to serve? Will you be utilizing direct service, consultation, or something else? A market analysis can provide you facts that will help you analyze whether your services are appropriate for the community. A market analysis will consider the population you are intending to serve alongside community demographics like average age and income, and population density. A market analysis can also define direct and indirect competition since it is important to note whether another practice is already meeting the need in the community you are looking to serve.
All of this can be summed up in a SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym that stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Consider things like finances, location, and available resources to create an overall picture of where you stand on beginning your private practice. This is an action step that many therapists can do at the beginning of planning the transition to private practice.
Rules regarding starting a business (such as occupational therapy private practice) will vary state-by-state. The Small Business Association and your local or national occupational therapy associations can be excellent resources. You will need to maintain your occupational therapy license and fulfill any continuing education units that your state requires. A private practitioner will need professional liability insurance to protect both you and your clients. All communications must always be HIPAA compliant.
Many clients will be interested in paying for services with their medical insurance. In order for you to get reimbursed you will need to join insurance provider panels. This can take several months and you will only be able to apply to panels that are accepting occupational therapists in your geographical area. The Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare, most often known as CAQH, provides a comprehensive initial application that is used by several private payors. This is often the first step in becoming credentialed by third parties and is a good place to start. While you go through the often lengthy process of credentialing, consider accepting private pay, HSA/FSA, or a sliding-scale system to start filling your schedule. Accepting a variety of payment methods is important because it makes your services accessible to more clients.
Find a space…. Or not!
Many private practice OTs do not have a physical location when they begin. There are many opportunities to be an independent clinician without an actual clinic space. This includes home health across the lifespan, telehealth, and independent contracting. Other therapists join together to share a space among a variety of health professionals.
If you are ready for your own space to treat clients there are several things to consider when selecting the perfect fit. The space should have a waiting area that allows you to comply with HIPAA regulations; a safe area outside; a clean bathroom; and adequate privacy when there will be more than one client in the clinic at once. Accessibility is also of utmost importance within our practice field and basic ADA compliance should be considered. This includes ramps; first floor access or an elevator; bathroom accessibility; wide aisles to navigate the space; handicap parking; and more things should be consider when selecting therapy office.
Marketing is how you’ll get out the news about your new private practice. If you made a thorough business plan you will already have an idea of what clients and referral sources you will need to target. You’ll first want to create a recognizable logo with your practice name. This can be used for a variety of needs: Printed advertisements, signage, social media, business cards and more. An especially effective way for occupational therapists to market is by becoming involved in the community. Speak at conferences, join the local chamber of commerce, and arrange time to meet with referrers to introduce yourself and the services you provide. Of course, providing consistently excellent services to your clients is a great way to get free marketing by word-of-mouth. Here are more marketing ideas for your private practice. If you are considering to provide telehealth occupational therapy services you may find this free teletherapy e-book useful. It covers everything: from setting up your office for telehealth through marketing your teletherapy services.
Connect with a Mentor
Navigating private practice for the first time can be challenging. Rules and legislation are fluid and vary between states. If possible, connect with a mentor who practices in your state. They can connect you to resources, networking groups, and answer questions that you will inevitably run into.
Policies and Paperwork
This is a significant endeavor for an OT transitioning to private practice. Clearly defining policies and keeping track of your documentation, consent forms, referrals, invoices, and other paper-work gives you credibility and a professional edge. It is essential that you define the expectations of your clients (will you charge for no-shows?) and any therapists you may hire. Organization and selection of a system that works for you as a practitioner is essential. An EHR system can fill in this need. TheraPlatform is an all-in-one system that includes the ability to schedule, document, submit insurance claims, allow the client to fill out forms, to conduct telehealth vis their built in video conferencing and more.
Private practice can be a fulfilling way to make a difference in your community. Coming up with a solid plan, accepting a variety of pay sources, making connections, and being consistent and organized can help you reach success on your new endeavor.
TheraPlatform is offering a 30-day free trial for their all-in-one EHR service. No credit card required. Sign up to explore the administrative features including intake and consent forms; client scheduling; billing; HIPAA-compliant messaging and video conferencing; daily documentation; e-claim submissions and more. TheraPlatform also offers several unique teletherapy features including a whiteboard; screen sharing; interactive games and more.
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