Physical Therapy Business Tips

How To Start a Physical Therapy Business: A 15 Step Guide

updated on

January 30, 2024

how to start  physical therapy business

Have you been apprehensive about starting your own physical therapy business? You aren't alone. Opening an outpatient clinic is a big undertaking; and finding someone to guide you can be challenging because only some physical therapists do decide to branch out on their own. 

In fact, only 3% of physical therapists are self-employed, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, but don't worry; it can be done! 

This article walks you step-by-step through the whole process.

What Are The 15 Steps To Start A Physical Therapy Business?

Starting your own physical therapy business is a lot of work. Here are 15 essential steps to opening your own clinic and running it successfully.

1. Decide What Kind Of Practice You Want

You have a lot of options when it comes to starting your own physical therapy business. Think through each one to determine which is the best scenario for you. Here are some options that may be available to you.

  • Go solo, and open a private practice.
  • Partner with another physical therapist.
  • Open a multidisciplinary practice.
  • Buy an existing physical therapy business.
  • Open a franchise.

2. Research The Market

Do market research. Base your decisions on facts, not assumptions. The area you live in has a unique culture, competitors, economy, and residents with specific needs. Educate yourself on all of that before making any concrete plans. The SBA has a useful guide for conducting market research.

3. Choose A Physical Therapy Specialty.

Choosing a speciality makes your business stand out and makes marketing your physical therapy practice easier. It would help if you based your chosen niche of the following criteria:

  • What type of physical therapy do you enjoy the most?
  • What segment of your local community is underserved?
  • What special skills, personal experience, and expertise do you have?
  • What's something your competitors don't offer or don't do well?
  • What did you learn in your market research?

4. Decide If You'll Be Cash Based Or Insurance Based.

Many patients expect their insurance to cover the cost of physical therapy. Physical therapists can enter into contracts with major insurance companies to become part of their network. However, the cost of insurance billing and reduced reimbursement rates can sometimes outweigh the benefits. That's why many physical therapists are turning toward cash-based or out-of-network businesses.

Consider the pros and cons of each option carefully. Zac Cupples, PT and NBA therapist, created an excellent comparison guide for cash pay vs insurance pay

insurance or cash based

5. Research Legal Liabilities

There's a lot of risk involved in starting a physical therapy business. Understanding what your liabilities are and how to mitigate risk is vital. Here are some legal liabilities physical therapists need to research before opening their own practice.

  • HIPAA Compliance
  • Liability Insurance
  • Business Structure & Associated Liabilities
  • Tax Liabilities
  • Local Business Regulations

6. Create A Business Plan

Think through the building, development, and future of your physical therapy business. Create a business plan by setting SMART goals and benchmarks for reaching those goals. Plan out how you'll get from here to there, in detail. Include financial projections, marketing strategies, operations guides, and staffing details. 

7. Get Outside Help

You're going to need a team of advisors. Hire professionals to handle the parts of business you're not qualified to do yourself. At a minimum, you need an attorney to draft legal documents, and a CPA to advise you on financial matters.

8. Secure Financing

If you need capital for your start-up, determine how much money you need to open and operate your business. Try to keep your expenses as low as possible, but realistic. You're lender will need the following items to determine if you're eligible for a loan:

  • Business plan
  • Financial projections
  • Personal financial documents
  • Professional references

9. Find A Space.

Find the right space for your clinic. The size, cost, and location of your building all matter. Decide if you want to buy a building or lease an office space. Here are some things to consider when searching for the right space for your business:

  • What's your budget?
  • How much square footage do you need?
  • What renovations need to be made to accommodate the setup you require?
  • What part of town do you want to be in?
  • Where are your competitors located?
  • Where do your customers live and work?
  • What zoning regulations do you need to be aware of?
  • Do you want to be inside a complex, inside a partnering business, or in a free standing building?

10. Buy Supplies And Equipment

Initial start-up costs for your physical therapy business are significantly impacted by the cost of purchasing equipment. Be budget conscious and choose quality products when deciding what PT equipment, office supplies, and marketing materials are essential. 

11. Build A Website

Think of your website as a virtual storefront. After you set up your physical space, set up your virtual space. Your website will be the place your future patients meet you for the first time. Make a good impression. Create a website that looks professional, showcases the results you provide, and highlights your skills.

12.Create A Marketing Plan

"If you build it, they will come" is not sound business advice. In order to get more patients, you have to market to a large audience. It's up to you to spread the word about your grand opening. It doesn't stop there. Marketing is an on-going part of running a business. Create a plan to market your business and become known as the best in your community.

Here are some are some marketing strategies to include in your plan:

  • Physical marketing material (business cards, brochures, mailings)
  • Digital marketing for physical therapists
  • Community outreach
  • Building a referral network
  • Loyalty programs

marketing ideas for PT

13. Get The Right Practice Management Software

Practice management software will make the lives of you and staff easier. Choose software that can automate the bulk of your admin tasks. Look for something that can handle scheduling, billing, SOAP notes, intake forms, and marketing. There's a wide variety of software to choose from. Find something that fits the needs of your practice and fits your budget.

14. Hire And Train Staff

Create a system for executing every task in your business. After that, hire and train your new staff. 

Consult your attorney and accountant before scheduling interviews to ensure you have the appropriate paperwork for new hires. Create a list of required skills and experience for the open position. Then, create a list of desired traits that aren't necessarily a requirement. Use those lists to select the right candidate. 

15. Provide Exceptional Care

Getting people in the door is only the first step to a successful physical therapy business. Getting them to come back and refer others to you is equally important. It's essential to uphold high standards, and deliver the same quality care every single visit.

How Much Does It Cost To Start A Physical Therapy Business?

The cost of starting a physical therapy business varies greatly depending on size, location, necessary equipment, marketing, etc. Start-up cost can range between $10,000 to $100,000 or more. Estimate your start-up cost by adding up everything that needs to be purchased before you're able to open.

Start-up costs include things like equipment, down payments, security deposits, legal fees, and initial marketing. Create a detailed list of necessary start-up purchases in your business plan. Monthly operating expenses, like rent, utilities, and salaries, are not considered start-up costs.

What Software Should I Use To Start A Physical Therapy Business?

When you're just starting out, be mindful of your budget. Physical therapy software can automate tasks you'd otherwise pay a person to do. ClinicSense is affordable software for physical therapists with the functionality to replace the need for a receptionist and marketing team. It also increases PT productivity.

Running a successful physical therapy business requires having systems in place. You need a system for scheduling, SOAP Notes, invoicing, organizing client files, and marketing. Practice management software can streamline those systems and automate many tasks. If you have questions about managing all the paperwork, this software can teach you a lot about how to start a physical therapy business and manage it well.

best physical therapy software image

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