Private Practice Physical Therapy. This term scares some Physical Therapists, excites others and confuses many. What is Private Practice P.T.? How do they make a living? Can I start a Private Practice? What does it take to succeed?
Physical Therapy has been evolving as a profession over the last 50 years. And recently terms like “autonomy” have been closely related to Private Practice. As Physical Therapy evolves into a “doctoring” profession the evolution into Private Practice is inevitable for many P.T.’s. While many P.T.’s are excited about this change, many are apprehensive about it. Further complicating this transition is a messy and complicated reimbursement system.
First things first
The first question that you have to answer when going into a private practice is the question “why”? Why do you want to go into Private Practice? What do you want to accomplish? How will going into Private Practice help you achieve your professional, personal and spiritual goals? When you are on your own you need to have a reason to get up in the morning. You no longer have a boss or a guarantee, and when times get tough, you need to know why to move forward.
“Success is when opportunity and preparation meet”. This quote is often seen on motivational posters, and it is accurate. We know that there is plenty of opportunity for Physical Therapists. We have a shortage of providers and the aging “baby boomer” population is providing us ample potential patients. Therefore, you need to be prepared for the leap into private practice. You need to prepare a personal financial statement. You need to determine how much of your own money you can afford to start a new practice. You want to identify your competition and determine if the area you want to open will support a private practice. Are your skills good enough to stand on your own? You need to identify the payer sources for your type of clinic. In short, you need a good business plan in order to be prepared to go into private practice.
You also need to be acutely aware of the risks involved in opening a practice. There are financial risks. You might lose money. There are personal risks. Failure is traumatic and you might be embarrassed in front of your friends and colleagues.
You must also be aware of the rewards. The satisfaction of building a practice is overwhelming. The pride you take in helping other people is tremendous. The autonomy you experience in your professional development is rewarding. The income potential is good. You should be able to earn $90,000 – $130,000 per year and sometimes much more.
“The freedom to have control of your life … priceless.”
Jumping out of the plane
When you open the doors to your own clinic, it feels like jumping out of a plane with a parachute. For awhile you are free falling and you really hope the shoot opens. Before you start a practice of your own, you need to decide if you are the type of person who can jump or not. This is a critical time in the decision making process. This is where “the rubber hits the road”. Not everyone can take this leap. All the preparation in the world or the greatest risk-reward analysis cannot convince some people to make the leap. But for the others, the jump comes naturally.
Now the scary part starts. The free fall has begun. The money is going out faster than it is coming in. Now is when a true entrepreneur comes through. Every start up has its moments in which it seems like nothing is working. This is the time that you test your mettle. But this is when clinical success is determined. This is when the parachute opens.
Get Some Help
Most Physical Therapists are inexperienced in the business world. And many P.T.’s really don’t want much to do with the business end of running a clinic. Then there are some P.T.’s who think they know what they are doing, but really don’t. This is where consultants, networks and affiliations come into play.
Consultants can be very helpful, but they also tend to cost a lot of money. Consultants don’t have to be high priced, however. Use friends, family and bankers who have a good understanding of business. They should look at your plan and tell you what you need to know.
Some Physical Therapists will join P.T. networks such as PTPN. This is OK for insurance contracts, but they are not very helpful for business advice, marketing advice or any other support that a start up needs.
One of the emerging options is to join a larger group to help you start your private practice. Some of these (such as USPT) offer modified employment agreements in which you earn equity and have some autonomy. Then there are organizations like Alliant PT. Alliant PT is a group practice that offers you the opportunity to set up your own practice within the group. In the Alliant PT model you practice the way you want and Alliant PT takes over much of the administrative burden. Alliant PT offers access to insurance contracts, business planning and practice advice.
If you are thinking about starting your Private Practice, NOW is a great time!
Chad Novasic P.T.
President and CEO of Alliant Physical Therapy