So you graduated with your Doctor of Physical Therapy degree and now you’re considering your options: Do you join an existing organization or learn how to start a physical therapy business to call your own?
Building a physical therapy clinic from the ground up isn’t a walk in the park — it comes with a fair amount of risk, stress, and time-consuming responsibilities compared to working under someone else. If you have confidence in your ability to combine your business acumen with your clinical expertise, starting your own physical therapy clinic could be the right choice for you.
Keep reading to discover the steps you need to take to start a physical therapy business, including conducting market research, creating a business plan, and hiring staff. With Weave’s physical therapy software, you can streamline your practice and focus on caring for patients.
1. Research the Market
Before you can write your business plan and fine-tune the details of your physical therapy practice, you need to research the market in your area. The data you glean from your research will help you decide your niche and create strategies for your business and marketing plans.
You can do much of your market research on the internet, searching up your competition, your location’s demographics, and the demand for physical therapy services in the area.
Identify Your Target Audience
You should learn more about who your potential patients are in your location, including their typical age range and occupations. Besides demographics, it’s essential to know which conditions people struggle with in the area and what types of physical therapy (PT) they seek.
Analyze Your Competitors and Find Your Niche
Researching your competitors gives you an idea of what to expect from the physical therapy industry in your location. You should check out the competitor’s size, business structure, location, length of time in business, and services offered. Armed with this information, identify what your clinic can provide that’s different or better.
Selecting a niche (a concentration on specific PT services for certain types of patients) enables you to target a highly specific audience and helps you stand out from your competition. Whether you decide to focus on sports therapy, chronic pain, hydrotherapy, post-surgical rehabilitation, women’s health, or another specialty, you should ensure that it’s right for your market and something you’ll enjoy doing.
2. Choose Your Business Structure and Compensation Model
At this point, you should ask yourself what type of business structure you want for your private physical therapy practice. Do you want to be the sole proprietor of your practice, or would you rather go in with a partner? You also need to decide if you want to buy an existing practice, open a franchise, partner with a gym, or join a group of physical therapists.
If you choose to start your own business, you’ll need to get all your documentation in order. Some of the things you’ll need to do to prepare include:
- Have an up-to-date therapist’s license
- Get your EIN (employer identification number) from the IRS
- Purchase professional liability insurance
- Open a business bank account
- Register your business name
Pros and Cons of Different Business Structures
Going solo or working with a partner both have their advantages and disadvantages, so choosing a business structure primarily depends on your goals and preferences as a practice owner.
Being the sole owner gives you the most autonomy, enabling you to make all the decisions and receive all the profits from the practice. However, you also bear all the risk and have to handle the business owner’s responsibilities yourself.
In a partnership, you can benefit from your business partner’s experience and skills, which ideally fill the gaps in your own skillset. They might also provide more connections and funding, and they share the burden of debt.
The downside to having a partner is that you might end up damaging your relationship if you have conflicts over how to run the business. If you have a specific vision of how you want your physical therapy practice to be, you might be disappointed when your partner doesn’t agree with your ideas.
Pros and Cons of Different Compensation Models
Your next step is choosing whether your clinic will be an insurance- or cash-based practice. Generally, private practice owners have contracts with insurance companies, providing PT services at specific reimbursement rates. The insurance company bears most of the financial burden, excluding the patient’s copay.
While being an in-network practice is the easiest way to get more patients, many healthcare providers have been switching their compensation model to a cash practice. A cash-based model allows you to make more money and reduces the amount of insurance billing work your staff has to do. You take payments directly, meaning your revenue is immediate.
Additionally, you don’t have to go through the credentialing process or adhere to contract requirements from insurance companies that limit appointment duration. Longer appointment times allow you to spend more time providing individualized patient care.
However, even cash-based clinics still have to provide documentation to receive reimbursement from their patients’ insurance companies. Not to mention, you’ll lose out on business from a large portion of the patient population, including patients with Medicare and those who can’t afford to pay for services and wait for reimbursement.
3. Create a Business Plan
Now, it’s time to write your business plan, which will be the roadmap you’ll follow as you work toward opening your PT practice. Your business plan will help you secure financial aid and keep track of your goals for your clinic. It should describe your PT services, sum up your market research, detail your operations, and explain your marketing plan.
Importance and Purpose of a Business Plan
A business plan is a formal document that outlines everything about your physical therapy private practice, including your business values and objectives. You’ll use your business plan as the foundation of your clinic and refer to it when developing strategies or making significant changes to your business, ensuring that your decisions align with your original values.
If you have to obtain financing, you can submit your business plan to investors, such as banks, angel investors, friends, or family members.
Components of a Business Plan
A business plan has many components that require a lot of research and deliberation, including:
- Marketing plan
- Mission statement
- Executive summary
- Financial summary
- Business goals
4. Find a Location and Equipment
When you look for a location for your PT clinic, there’s a lot to consider besides the price. While determining how much you can afford in rent based on your finances is important, you also need to look at the following factors in choosing the right spot for your practice:
- Number of potential patients who live or work in the area
- Proximity to providers that give patient referrals
- Number of local providers in the physical therapy sector
- Accessibility (wheelchair access ramps, etc.)
- Nearby parking or public transportation
- The reimbursement rate for other PT providers in the area
When you start checking out real estate, it helps to go with a leasing agent or a tenant broker who knows the location. When negotiating a contract, you should bring a real estate attorney to ensure you get advantageous terms, such as an exclusive use clause that prevents another physical therapist from moving into the building.
Regarding the size of your office, you could choose a space that you can grow into or a smaller office that helps you save money upfront. If you plan to do telehealth or virtual physical therapy appointments, you might be able to get away with a smaller office.
Once you’ve settled on a location, you need the equipment to fill it, such as exercise machines, ultrasound units, remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) equipment, hi-lo treatment tables, and weights. You’ll also need computers for your team and comfortable furniture for the reception and staff areas.
Buying all that expensive equipment is a hefty upfront investment, but you can save a significant amount of money by purchasing used equipment online or renting the more pricey items. It’s wise to prioritize the most important equipment and save the big-ticket items for when your clinic starts pulling in more revenue.
5. Hire Staff and Set Policies
Once your PT business is established and you have a location, you still need staff for your clinic. If you know a medical professional, like an occupational therapist, who would be a good fit for your private practice, whether a former classmate or old colleague, you should let them know you’re starting your own business.
You’ll also need administrative staff to handle your reception duties and other managerial tasks while you focus on providing patient care. According to our 2022 State of Healthcare Staffing ebook, 51% of small practices receive monthly complaints about front office staff. Before hiring someone for small business administration, you should thoroughly vet them and conduct a background check so you know you’re only employing the best.
Your office manager should have excellent people skills and, preferably, experience running a physical therapy office. You can scout for talent through online job sites, such as LinkedIn and Indeed. Hiring staff members from various cultural backgrounds brings diversity to your clinic and helps your practice feel more relatable to a diverse client population.
6. Choose Software and Systems
Running a business gets exponentially easier when you choose the right management software. You’ll need an electronic health record (EHR), payment processing platform, scheduling software, customer relationship management (CRM) platform, and more.
The best physical therapy software are all-inclusive platforms that integrate the essential systems you use every day to run your practice, from physical therapy billing to appointment scheduling.
Weave – One Platform For Everything
Weave is an easy-to-use software for communication, scheduling, marketing, billing, and much more. When you choose Weave for your physical therapy practice, you can enjoy benefits like these:
- Online scheduling that keeps your calendar full
- Automated missed call follow-ups, appointment reminders, and more
- Email marketing campaigns
- Payment processing with multiple contactless payment options
- Digital patient forms
- Faster insurance verification
- Two-way texting software for updates, scheduling, etc.
- Online review management
- Innovative phone system with detailed caller ID
7. Develop a Marketing Plan
Even if you have a solid business plan and the perfect location for your physical therapy clinic, you still need an effective marketing plan to bring in a steady stream of new patients. Long before you open your doors to the public, you should have a strategy for how to bring awareness to your practice in the local community.
You need to determine your marketing budget and define your goals, both of which will help you create marketing strategies that align with your business plan. You’ll need to identify your target audience, which depends on your niche and the services you offer. Based on your audience, you can choose the best advertising channels, such as Google, Facebook, or Instagram.
Create Your Brand Identity and Build an Online Presence
Branding is a crucial part of any business because it’s how a potential patient differentiates you from your competitors. Creating a brand that appeals to your target audience helps you build trust and cultivate loyalty with your patients.
To establish a strong online presence, you need to hire a developer to build a functional, easy-to-navigate website for your business, including search engine optimization (SEO) so your potential clients can find you. You should also create social media profiles and add your business to directories, such as the American Physical Therapy Association.
Start Off Strong With Weave Physical Therapy Software
Now that you know how to start a physical therapy business, are you still interested in taking the leap? If you’re confident in your business skills and want to establish a physical therapy clinic that provides outstanding care for patients in your area, we can help maximize your practice’s efficiency and productivity.
At Weave, we offer an extensive package of business management tools that help you engage with your patients, attract new clients, get paid on time, keep a packed schedule, and much more.
Practices can save more than $7,000 in staffing costs a year by using Weave.
From the first phone call to the final invoice and every touchpoint in between, Weave connects the entire customer journey, all while making you and your staff's lives easier.Schedule Demo