How to start a private physical therapy practice

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If you’ve been practicing as a physical therapist for a while now, chances are you have had the opportunity to practice in different settings. If you’ve reached a point in your career where you feel ready and inspired to open a private physical therapy practice, you may be wondering about the most important steps to take you from blueprints to the grand opening or essentially, how to start a physical therapy business.

It starts with a plan – a business plan

A successful private physical therapy practice always starts with a business plan. The business plan helps to define the purpose and direction of your business. It also helps to ensure that all components of the business have been considered and carefully planned. This is important not only to improve your chances of success and minimize unwanted surprises but also to help attract financing when considering how to start a physical therapy business.

When crafting a business plan, you will first describe the company, its name, key staff you’ve hired, steps you’ve already undertaken and the company’s mission and objectives. The plan will also outline in detail the demographic of patients and clients you will be targeting, how you will market to those potential clients and how you will handle running the business and admin tasks that go along with owning a business. Discussion of local competition, openings in the market and potential risks that may impair your growth are also included. Finally, marketing strategies, daily operations and financial data and projections wrap up the business plan. 

Location, location, location

With a few exceptions, most people do not want to drive very far to get to their therapy clinic. With this in mind, if you plan to open a brick-and-mortar private physical therapy practice, it is important to do some research into the optimal location for your space.

These are some important considerations when selecting a location and thinking about how to start a physical therapy business:
  • What is the cost to lease or purchase a space (including any necessary upgrades or renovations)?
  • Does your target clientele live near this area?
  • What does the transportation look like in this area?
  • Is there enough space?
  • Is there a lobby and enough private office space to maintain patient confidentiality?
  • Is the waiting room large enough to accommodate chairs, wheelchairs and other assistive devices?
  • What is the accessibility of the bathrooms, of the sidewalks approaching the space, the parking outside the front door?

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Because very few people want to drive beyond a certain distance for therapy sessions, you may want to consider using teletherapy for your private physical therapy practice. Considerations for how to start a physical therapy business will include whether the video conferencing tool is HIPAA compliant and where a company’s servers are located. 

Download our list of questions to ask video conferencing vendors

Get a jumpstart on credentialing

If you plan to accept health insurance as payment for physical therapy services, credentialing is your first step. Credentialing is the process of becoming accepted into an insurance plan’s preferred network of providers. Through this process you will prove to each insurance company that you are worthy of being one of their in-network providers.

This has to be done for each insurance plan for each provider that is practicing at that location. If a therapist joins your team from another private physical therapy practice that accepts the same insurance plans, there is a chance that they will need to be re-credentialed at your location. It can be a lengthy process and consulting someone experienced in insurance credentialing can take some of the stress out of the process. Without credentialing, your providers will not be reimbursed by the insurance company – an important factor when thinking about how to start a private practice. 

This is not something on which you want to wait. In the post-pandemic world it could take 4-6  months to get a provider credentialed which could mean trouble if you are hoping to open your doors sometime soon. If you haven’t completed the credentialing process, options are available for getting your private physical therapy practice started. Offering cash-pay services or the choice to use an HSA or FSA to pay for physical therapy is another option if you have clients willing to forgo using their insurance benefits in the meantime. 

Keep it legal

The legalities of how to start a physical therapy business will vary by state, county and even city. The U.S. Small Business Administration is a great place to start as they can help you navigate the necessary federal and state permits and licenses and get a federal and state tax ID number. You also need to familiarize yourself with such things as requirements for accessibility within and around your clinic space, necessary steps to remain HIPAA compliant, maintain your physical therapy license, and abide by the state and federal private physical therapy practice acts. 

Spread the word about your private physical therapy practice

Marketing is the key to bringing business through the door. Potential clients may hear about your business in many ways. Word of mouth can be a powerful referral source but is likely not enough to fill your entire schedule. Having an active social media account, advertising in publications that your target client population reads, contacting local news stations or hosting a booth at a local event can all be great tools to increase your visibility within the community. 

Another idea when considering how to start a physical therapy business is offering free talks or educational sessions to community members on an interesting topic so people experience your knowledge and learn about your services. Also, if you haven’t taken a trip down to your local Chamber of Commerce, this is the time to do so as the Chamber of Commerce is designed to help you build your professional network and market your business.

Finally, building relationships with referring healthcare providers is something worth starting early when contemplating how to start a physical therapy business. If you expect direct physician referral to be a large part of your private physical therapy practice then you need to let them know you are out there and that they can confidently refer their patients to your clinic. Most physicians will already have a list of physical therapists to whom they regularly refer their patients and getting them to include you in that list can take some time and repeat exposure to your name and your good work.

Hire a great team

If you plan to open a private physical therapy practice with only yourself or maybe one other therapist on the payroll, you may find that you prefer to handle both the treating and the administration work yourself. If you plan to scale the business to include more therapists, hiring the right staff can make all the difference when determining how to start a physical therapy business. Not only do you want to take the time to ensure the therapists you hire match your work ethic and vision for the growing business, but you may want to consider hiring or contracting with a team to handle the insurance credentialing, the billing, scheduling or other admin tasks. 

Start 30-day Free Trial and explore TheraPlatform. HIPAA Compliant Video and Practice Management Software for Therapists.

Don’t forget the private physical therapy practice paperwork

Finally, paperwork and documentation are a necessary part of running a private physical therapy practice and treating patients. Having clearly defined policies and an organizational strategy for handling intake paperwork, invoices, consent forms and treatment documentation is essential. This will help ensure all necessary paperwork is completed and filed away (either in paper form or electronically) in the exact right place for easy reference later. 

When weighing how to start a physical therapy business, practice management software, which helps clinicians automate repetitive tasks, can help build a provider’s business as you can spend more time helping clients, growing your practice and marketing to grow your client base. Additionally, practice management software can personally assist you and the client by preventing burnout and easing stress. Read the Top 9 things all therapists should automate.

Watch our video on the Top benefits of using TheraPlatform.

Start your free trial now

Use a comprehensive electronic health record (EHR) system like Theraplatform to ease some of your worry about juggling so many different processes. TheraPlatform is an all-in-one system that includes the ability to schedule, document, submit insurance claims, allow the client to fill out forms, and to conduct telehealth with their built-in video conferencing. When thinking about how to start a private practice, consider their 30-day free trial with no credit card required. Cancel anytime.

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