Tips for Aspiring Physical Therapy Entrepreneurs

If you opt to launch your own practice in physical therapy (PT) or occupational therapy (OT), you’ll need a brain for business and a knack for marketing yourself. Don’t take the plunge without evaluating whether your potential business has what it takes to stay afloat.

Here are six tips for aspiring therapy entrepreneurs.

Ask Yourself the Hard Questions

Not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship. Physical therapist James Glinn Sr. recommends asking yourself two key questions: Do you have a passion to own a business? Do you have a work ethic beyond the 9-to-5 mentality? You must answer yes to both questions to succeed with your own practice, says Glinn, who is coauthor of Private Practice Physical Therapy: The How-To Manualand owner of FutureRehab, a healthcare consulting company in Bakersfield, California, that specializes in practice management.

Private practitioners may also have to deal with fluctuating income, especially during their first months on their own. They must possess “the ability to take risks,” says occupational therapist Jane Koomar, PhD, executive director and owner of Occupational Therapy Associates — Watertown, PC, in Watertown, Massachusetts, and author of Plan for Success: A Business Workbook for the Occupational Therapist in Private Practice.

Examine the Marketplace

The demand for physical and occupational therapists is strong, but you should still use business smarts when determining the type and location of your venture. Glinn recommends performing a market survey to evaluate the need for your type of services in a specific area. Too many physical therapists focus on popular niches like sports or manual therapy in areas that are already saturated with qualified practitioners.

According to Glinn, the market may be poor for new practices in idyllic locations like San Diego, but outstanding in outlying and semirural areas. “The more desirable an area, the more competition you will have,” he says.

Gain Some Business Savvy

You don’t need an MBA for your practice to succeed, but you do need to understand how to operate a business. You’ll need to know the difference between a sole proprietorship and a corporation, Glinn says. You’ll also need to learn tax laws, coding and reimbursement methods.

Koomar notes that some small private practices are private-pay only; they do not accept insurance. Practitioners give receipts to patients, who try to get reimbursed. If you do decide to accept insurance, be prepared to ask for help with your billing. If you can’t afford to hire your own billing coordinator, Koomar recommends using an outside billing agency to collect what you’re owed. “You have a better chance of getting reimbursed if you’ve got individuals or groups of individuals working on your behalf who have knowledge of how third-party reimbursement is working in your area,” Koomar says.

Sell Yourself

When building your practice, one of your top priorities should be developing strong relationships with referral sources. While lawyers, dentists and other professionals can expect long-term relationships with clients, PTs and OTs tend to have patients for shorter periods. “From a business perspective, your referral sources are just as much your clients as your patients,” Koomar says. “You want to nurture and care for them in the same way you do your patients.”

Your referral sources may include physicians, other PTs and OTs, mental health professionals, social workers, teachers and many others. Koomar recommends ongoing communication to maintain strong relationships with referral sources. Koomar’s company sends referral sources regular newsletters and letters. Referral sources also get free passes to educational workshops and talks Koomar’s company sponsors.

Put Your Patients First

It goes without saying that private practices live or die based on the care and attention you lavish on your patients. Don’t forget that small gestures can have a big impact in a private-practice setting, Glinn says. For example, you should go out of your way to create a pleasant clinic atmosphere and make your hours convenient for patients, Glinn says.

Seek Help

Both the American Physical Therapy Association and the American Occupational Therapy Association have private-practice sections that offer help and mentoring to new entrepreneurs. The US Small Business Administration also offers advice on topics ranging from financing to marketing on its Web site.

Article source by Megan Malugani

Monster Contributing Writer

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