Print Friendly and PDF Print or Download

An Essential Guide to Opening Your Physical Therapy Practice

As a physical therapist, opening your practice is an exciting step toward self-sufficiency and personal agency over your professional life. You can operate your PT practice according to your preferences, controlling everything from treatments offered to payments accepted.

That said, starting your practice means taking on added responsibility. Before your practice commences operations, you should draft a business plan, find a location, apply for professional permits, hire and train staff, secure startup funding, and market your practice. That to-do list only addresses the steps you need to take before your practice even opens.

As a business owner, you will further find yourself running into hurdles you never faced as an on-staff physical therapist. For example, if one of your staff members mishandles a treatment and a patient gets hurt as a result, your business may face a personal injury lawsuit. The average out-of-court settlement in medical malpractice cases is $425,000 – a sum that can put you out of business if you haven’t put preventive health care risk management measures in place.

This isn’t meant to scare you. If you want to open your physical therapy practice, you should. However, you should prepare appropriately. This guide covers some of the critical challenges you'll face running your practice and offers tips and resources to conquer them.

5 Challenges to Expect When Running Your Physical Therapy Practice

Read on to find out what you can expect to learn when running your physical therapy practice.

1. Shifting Your Mindset from Physical Therapist to Entrepreneur
You aren't just a physical therapist anymore. You're a business owner. Although it sounds straightforward, this is a significant change. Entrepreneurship presents psychological as well as practical hurdles, and it's important to acknowledge these. Until you have a support team, you will be your business's entire C-suite, from the chief operations officer to the chief financial officer.

As a new business owner, you will do a lot of learning on the job. Look for resources to help. Clueless about finance? Check out Finance 101 for Private Practice from the American Physical Therapy Association. You can find more resources like the U.S. Small Business Administration or your local community college. Get the knowledge you need to boost your confidence as an entrepreneur.

2. Administrative Burden
Managing a business requires attention to finances, operations, marketing, advertising, human resources, etc. Plus, you have to manage these aspects of daily operations while also practicing your core competence – administering physical therapy.

Turn to technology to help you cut down on the administrative burden.

Accounting and billing software can streamline your bookkeeping, for example, while digital calendars will make it easy to manage your team. Meanwhile, digital marketing channels allow you to reach potential customers online easily – social media is a free, far-reaching platform, for instance. You can also use technology like HootSuite to manage all platforms in one place.

3. Human Resources
You can further reduce your administrative burden by delegating tasks to other people. To do this with confidence, you want to build a trustworthy team.

Human resources management will be a critical challenge. You have to build a team from the ground up and then sustain and manage that team.

When hiring professionals for your physical therapy practice, there are necessary professional credentials to consider. Request a resume and copies of degrees, certifications, and licenses.

Beyond these basics, you want to ensure any individual you hire is a good fit for your company culture. Conduct in-person interviews and call references to assess personality traits, like the ability to work in a team.

4. Getting Business
When you're an on-staff PT, you don't have to worry about generating business. When you're the boss, however, this becomes a primary concern.

Marketing and advertising are essential to raising awareness about your PT practice.

First, identify your target group (e.g., individuals injured in car accidents versus athletes). Then, draft key messages that sell your business – for example, do you offer special therapies that other PT practices don’t?

Finally, consider how best to get those key messages to your target groups. Possibilities include search engine advertising, social media, and partnerships with local healthcare providers.

5. Managing Risk
Owning a physical therapy practice invites legal risks.

You could face lawsuits from patients, for example. You also face risks related to employees, such as discrimination lawsuits and workers' compensation claims. On top of that, there are broader crises to consider – like what happens if you have to pause operations because of COVID-19 restrictions?

The right professional and healthcare provider insurance coverage can help you survive such unexpected scenarios. Here are some types of insurance a PT practice may need:
  • Professional liability coverage: This covers costs related to patient claims, including everything from damages to lawyer's fees.
  • License protection: Malpractice claims can require you to protect the right to keep your PT license. This can cost thousands in legal fees. License protection covers these costs.
  • Workers' compensation: If one of your employees is hurt on the job, this covers their medical expenses.
  • Commercial property insurance: A robbery or natural disaster can damage valuable PT equipment, computers, and furniture inside your business. Commercial property insurance helps you replace these valuable goods.
  • Cyber risk insurance: A cyber-attack against your business can jeopardize sensitive patient data as well as payment information. Cyber insurance covers damages and the cost of restoring data security.
Get the Protection You Need for Your Physical Therapy Practice
The above list covers just a few possible protections your PT practice may benefit from. AON’s insurance professionals can advise on what coverage you may need depending on your precise circumstances.

Want to ensure your physical therapy practice insurance meets your needs?

Contact us today for a quote.​
This publication is intended to inform Affinity Insurance Services, Inc., customers of potential liability in their practice. This information is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide individualized guidance. All descriptions, summaries or highlights of coverage are for general informational purposes only and do not amend, alter or modify the actual terms or conditions of any insurance policy. Coverage is governed only by the terms and conditions of the relevant policy. Any references to non-Aon, AIS, NSO, HPSO websites are provided solely for convenience, and Aon, AIS, NSO and HPSO disclaims any responsibility with respect to such websites. This information is not intended to offer legal advice or to establish appropriate or acceptable standards of professional conduct. Readers should consult with a lawyer if they have specific concerns. Neither Affinity Insurance Services, Inc., HPSO, nor CNA assumes any liability for how this information is applied in practice or for the accuracy of this information.

Healthcare Providers Service Organization is a registered trade name of Affinity Insurance Services, Inc., a licensed producer in all states (TX 13695); (AR 100106022); in CA, MN, AIS Affinity Insurance Agency, Inc. (CA 0795465); in OK, AIS Affinity Insurance Services, Inc.; in CA, Aon Affinity Insurance Services, Inc., (CA 0G94493), Aon Direct Insurance Administrators and Berkely Insurance Agency and in NY, AIS Affinity Insurance Agency.