Empower Your Practice

Journal for Practice Managers

How to Start a Physical Therapy Clinic in 2024 [10 Easy Steps]

Physical therapy You’re an expert in physical therapy.

But, being an excellent physical therapist isn’t enough if you dream of opening a physical therapy clinic.

Actually, if you don’t have a background in business, starting a physical therapy clinic can seem nearly impossible.

With the right guidance, however, it doesn’t have to be difficult!

Medesk is an assistant for clinic managers, collects and presents complex statistics about the work of the clinic in a simple and understandable way, that makes it easier for the manager to make both operational and strategic decisions.

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If you want to turn your dream of starting a physical therapy clinic into reality, just follow our in-depth step-by-step guide to opening a physical therapy clinic.

Ready to begin your business endeavor?

Let’s dive in!

Step-By-Step Guide to Start a Physical Therapy Clinic

Here are the exact steps you need to follow to successfully start a physical therapy clinic:

#1. Create a Business Plan

Opening a physical therapy clinic is no different than starting any business - to do so, you first need to have a solid business plan in place.

The goal of a business plan is to define your physical therapy clinic’s direction, vision, and goals after analyzing and evaluating the market.

Research the Current Market Situation

To research the current market situation, you don’t have to look far - typically, patients visit physical therapists close to them.

This means that you should focus your research around your location.

Here are a few ways how you can effectively research the current market situation in your area:

  • Internet. Browsing the Internet is the easiest way to do your research, so consider researching your competitors, creating surveys for your potential clients, etc.
  • Interviews. Organizing individual interviews or focus groups with the people living in the area will allow you to conduct your research and give you a close-up of your potential clients.
  • Purchasing data. If your budget allows, consider buying relevant data that can include client lists, studies, credit reports, and other information that can help you with your research.

Once you choose your research method (or a few of them), here’s exactly where you need to focus on before opening a physical therapy clinic:

  • Your target market. You should find out and define who your potential patients are, what type of physical therapy services they need, what would attract them to your clinic, and where they currently seek help.
  • Your competition. Next, you should analyze and define how many competitors you have, who they are, what their business strategy is and how successful it is, and other relevant factors.

Define Your Physical Therapy Niche

Orthopedics, neurology, women’s health - that’s just a few of the many niches you could choose for your physical therapy clinic.

Narrowing down your options is much easier once you’ve researched the current market and by now you should have a clear idea of the most in-demand physical therapy niches in your area.

It’s safe to say that if you choose any of these niches, you’re already setting yourself up for success, so just choose an underserviced physical therapy niche that interests you the most.

Once you define your niche, you can start scouting your area for reputable physical therapists who specialize in that specific niche and begin building your team.

#2. Finance Your Physical Therapy Clinic

Starting a physical therapy clinic is expensive - in fact, opening a standard physical therapy clinic costs just shy of $400,000 (at the very least).

As such, sorting out the financial situation to help you avoid financial struggles is a crucial part of opening a physical therapy clinic.

For many new business owners, however, this task can be overwhelming - after all, most physical therapists don’t have a background in finance.

So, instead of trying to manage your finances all at once, first determine the business model you’re going to use in your physical therapy clinic and then work on securing your financing.

Determine Your Physical Therapy Business Model

These are the two main business models which physical therapy clinics use:

  • Insurance-based. This model (also called in-network) works by entering your physical therapy clinic into contracts with insurance companies.
  • Cash-based. Also called the out-of-network model, this billing model allows you to collect cash, checks, debit, and credit card payments directly from your patients.

Alternatively, you could also opt for a hybrid of these two models.

Now, most physical therapy clinics take the easy (but more expensive) option and use the traditional insurance-based model, which helps to attract patients more easily.

This is because insurance is expensive - thus, many people prefer their healthcare to be covered by insurance so that their money doesn’t go to waste.

If you want to work independently and have more autonomy in your physical therapy practice, though, you can consider choosing the cash-based business model for your clinic.

Here’s how the cash-based model compares to the insurance-based model:

  • Immediate payment. You’ll receive the payment the moment the patient pays for your physical therapy services.
  • Lower staff requirements. You won’t need to hire anyone to deal with your billing and monthly reporting needs.
  • Higher profit margins. This will allow you to reinvest more money into your physical therapy practice.
  • Higher level of personal care. The insurance-based model limits your patient visit duration. Using the cash-based model, however, you won’t be restricted to spending just 30-60 minutes on a single patient, so you’ll be able to spend as much one-on-one time with your patients as they need.
  • Increased marketing expenses. Using the cash-based model, you’ll have to invest more into marketing your physical therapy clinic to potential patients.

Secure Your Financing

Chances are, like many physical therapists, you don’t have half a million dollars laying around to spare.

In such a case, you can always lean on your family and friends to help you out with opening a physical therapy clinic.

Alternatively, you can look for a private investor to fund your business or even take a bank loan.

If you choose to go through with taking a bank loan, these are some of your options:

If you do choose to take a loan from the bank, keep in mind that it’s a lengthy process, as you will likely need to revise your business plan as well as provide any other required paperwork to the bank.

#3. Know the Law

You want your practice to operate legally, so make sure to research the laws and regulations on starting a physical therapy clinic.

These laws differ from state to state and country to country, so you only need to understand the laws that apply to your service area.

For example, if you’re opening a physical therapy clinic in California, learn all the ins and outs of the California Business and Professions Code Physical Therapy Practice Act and other related acts.

And if you can afford a consultation with a lawyer specializing in private practices or small businesses, it’s generally advised to do so - after all, legal consultation will cost you less than a run-in with the law.

#4. Launch Your Physical Therapy Clinic

By now, you should have your business plan, finances, and legal matters sorted.

So, it’s time to set up your physical therapy clinic, which involves organizing your paperwork, picking the right space for your clinic, and hiring staff.

Organize The Documentation

Starting a physical therapy clinic involves a whole heap of paperwork.

As such, your best option is to hire a lawyer or a company that specializes in setting up medical clinics or businesses to fill in the paperwork for you.

Here’s some of the administrative work you need to get sorted out to open a physical therapy clinic:

  • Register a business name
  • Obtain necessary licenses
  • Apply for a tax number
  • Ensure your physical therapy clinic

Pick a Space For Your Physical Therapy Clinic

Without a doubt, you want to choose the best possible space for opening a physical therapy clinic.

So, here’s what you should consider to make sure you pick the right space for your clinic:

  • Rent price. Once you’ve secured your financing, you should have a clear understanding of how much of your funds you can use for renting out the space for your physical therapy clinic. So, to narrow down your options, look for rentals in your price range.
  • Size. You generally want to rent a place that has enough space for your needs as well as room to grow.
  • Parking. Consider whether there’s parking on the property (or nearby) and whether there are enough parking places. In case the parking is paid, find out if you could negotiate free parking for your patients.
  • Accessibility. Make sure to rent a place for your physical therapy clinic that is easily accessible by public transport and by patients with physical needs (e.g. someone in a wheelchair).
  • Rental agreement. Carefully read the lease and pay special attention to the rental period and termination conditions of the rental agreement.

Before signing the rental agreement, don’t forget to negotiate the price, rental period, and any other relevant details.

Hire Staff

Unless you start a physical therapy clinic as a sole practitioner, you want to hire staff to work in your clinic.

The good news is, if you followed our guide step-by-step, you should already have some great candidates after defining your niche, so it’s time to recruit the very best of them!

Here are the staff needs of a successful physical therapy clinic:

  • Physical therapists. You want your team to consist of the top physical therapists in your area. If you don’t have enough options by now, ask your old colleagues and college classmates to join your clinic or recommend other specialists. Alternatively, scout for talent on websites such as LinkedIn.
  • Administrative staff. Hire administrative staff, such as receptionists and medical assistants, to help you manage the workload so that you can focus on patient care. Make sure that your receptionists are both efficient and welcoming, as they can make or break the atmosphere in your clinic.

#5. Design Your Physical Therapy Clinic

So, you’ve rented the perfect space for your physical therapy clinic, but that’s not where it ends - now you need to design it.

Here are some tips on designing your physical therapy clinic:

  • Hire a professional. You’re opening a physical therapy clinic, so you want to design a relaxing space for your patients. To make sure your clinic looks fresh and inviting, your best option is to work with an interior designer who can make your vision come to life.
  • Get inspiration. If you can’t afford to work with a professional, try looking for inspiration online (e.g. Pinterest). Alternatively, you can visit other physical therapy clinics to borrow ideas on how to (and how not to) design your physical therapy clinic.
  • Adjust the lighting. To create a welcoming atmosphere, avoid harsh, fluorescent lighting. Instead, try to get as much natural light as possible into your clinic or use soft, warm tone lightbulbs.
  • Decorate your space. Add a personal touch to your physical therapy clinic with plants, paintings, and other decorations.
  • Make the most out of your waiting room. First impressions matter, so make sure your waiting room is neat and comfortable. If your space allows it, add entertainment and work areas to increase patient satisfaction.

#6. Buy The Necessary Equipment

Equipping your practice is a vital part of starting a physical therapy clinic.

At the very minimum, you need treadmills, elliptical trainers, and exercise bikes…

Buying all of the equipment you need all at once, though, can hurt your wallet.

Here’s what you can do instead:

  • Prioritize your purchases. Make a list of the essential equipment to your physical therapy practice and a list of equipment that can be bought once your physical therapy clinic takes off.
  • Buy used equipment. By buying secondhand equipment, you can save considerable amounts of money.
  • Look for the best deal. Browse online stores and compare the prices (better yet, wait for discounts, holiday sales, etc.).
  • Buy wholesale. To save a buck, order your equipment from wholesale stores in bulk.

#7. Develop Your Marketing Strategy

Even with a great business plan, top practitioners, and well-designed space, your physical therapy clinic might be empty.

It’s not enough to spread the word to your friends and colleagues - starting a physical therapy clinic requires you to have a solid marketing plan that will attract patients to your clinic (and maintain your clientele).

Do it right and patients will be flocking to your physical therapy clinic as soon as you open the door.

If you want to develop a well-rounded marketing strategy, consider these elements:

  • Marketing objective. First of all, you need to define the objective of your marketing strategy and make sure it matches your business goals.
  • Target audience. Defining your target audience will allow you to find out which marketing channels will help you reach your desired outcomes.
  • Budget. You have to make sure you can cover your marketing costs before your marketing strategy starts bringing you profit.

While your business plan is likely to stay the same, your marketing strategy should be constantly evaluated and revised.

Individually customized reports at Medesk make it clear where to advertise and what services to offer. You can plan special offers, use color-coded tags that will help segment and analyze specific data for pre-selected positions.

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So, don’t worry if your marketing strategy isn’t immediately effective - it’s all about trial and error.

#8. Build Your Brand Identity

Branding is a necessary part of opening a physical therapy clinic - it helps people to recognize your business, which is all the more important when you’re just starting.

Not only that - building your brand identity helps you to stand out among your competitors, establishes trust, and increases patient loyalty.

To build a memorable brand, you first need to:

  • Pick a color scheme. This will be used throughout your branding, including your logo, social media profiles, website, and staff uniforms. Green, red, and blue are all safe color choices for your physical therapy clinic, especially in muted tones.
  • Design a logo. For your brand to be easily recognized, you should create a logo that represents your physical therapy clinic. Your logo should appeal to your target audience and make your clinic stand out, so check your competitors’ logos for inspiration.

#9. Create A Strong Online Presence

Now that you’ve worked on your branding, it’s time to promote your physical therapy clinic online.

Essentially, building an online presence will allow you to reach your target audience and build rapport with your patients.

What is more, a strong online presence can help you to stand out from your competitors, even if you’re just starting a physical therapy clinic!

As such, setting up a website for your physical therapy clinic, creating relevant social media accounts, and entering your physical therapy clinic into directories can help you to successfully start your physical therapy clinic.

Make A Website

A professional website can help your physical therapy clinic to:

  • Reach your target audience
  • Share relevant information with your patients
  • Showcase your services

Unless you have prior experience with building websites, however, you should hire a website developer to do the job for you.

While this may lead to additional expenses, an experienced website developer will help you to save a lot of time and effort by developing a professional website to represent your physical therapy clinic.

Of course, you can (and should) build your website as you go, but even a very basic website needs to be responsive and easy to navigate so that your potential patients have an excellent user experience upon visiting it.

Keep in mind that, more likely than not, visiting your website, will be the first interaction your patients will have with your physical therapy clinic.

As such, you shouldn’t skimp out on building a website that leaves a positive first impression and establishes trust.

Here are the basics of a well-designed professional website for your physical therapy clinic:

  • Your physical therapy clinic’s logo
  • Cohesive color scheme that matches your branding
  • Quick loading speed
  • Mobile compatibility
  • Contact page
  • Blog page

Your physical therapy clinic’s website should also be optimized for SEO.

This will allow you to compete with other local physical therapy clinics and promote your services in a cost-effective way.

Take Advantage of Directories

Entering online directories is an easy way to promote your physical therapy clinic.

Moreover, directories allow your patients to leave reviews for your physical therapy clinic, which will help you build a solid reputation.

In fact, a 2020 survey found that 90% of patients read online reviews to help them pick a healthcare professional.

As such, consider entering your physical therapy clinic on these directories to help you attract more patients to your clinic:

Create Social Media Accounts

Done right, social media can be incredibly rewarding.

According to Ambassador, over 70% of people are more likely to recommend a company to their friends after they have had a positive interaction with the brand on social media.

Well, this means that if you don’t set up active social media accounts, you’re missing out on attracting patients to your physical therapy clinic!

Social media has become crucial to digital marketing and that’s why creating your social media accounts is an important step of opening a physical therapy clinic.

Brands frequently use Facebook and Instagram to promote their services, so that’s the bare minimum you could do.

However, social media is competitive, and that’s why you may want to eventually hire a social media manager to run your social media pages as well as any social media advertising campaigns.

#10. Run A Successful Physical Therapy Clinic

The last step of starting a physical therapy clinic is to define how exactly you’re going to run your practice.

Here are the most important elements of running a successful physical therapy clinic:

  • Manage your finances. To ensure your finances are under control, consider hiring an accountant who is experienced with healthcare clinics to manage your everyday expenses, organize your books, make financial projections, and help with any other financial operations.
  • Consult your business plan. To make sure you don’t get off track and grow your physical therapy clinic, revisit your business plan. This will help you keep a goal-oriented mindset and to not lose track of your business direction.
  • Use practice management software. A practice management software will take a lot of work off your shoulders by helping you to effectively manage your appointments, notes, invoices, and much more.

What Kind of Software Should I Use For My Physical Therapy Clinic?

Physical Therapy Clinic software

Looking for the best software solution to use for your physical therapy clinic?

Try Medesk!

These Medesk Practice Management Software tools will help you to easily manage your physical therapy clinic:

  • EHR - keep your patients’ medical health records neatly organized in one place.
  • Medical Billing - automate your patient payment process to make it fast and error-free.
  • Online Booking - link this tool to your website and social media accounts so that your patients can easily schedule their physical therapy appointments.
  • Medical CRM - track your doctor-patient interactions consistently and collect feedback to increase your patient satisfaction.
  • Reports and Analytics - keep track of your physical therapy clinic’s performance and produce reports in minutes.
  • Telemedicine - provide your patients with physical therapy consultations online from anywhere in the world.

And even more!

If you want to try out managing your physical therapy clinic with Medesk practice management software, start our free trial today!

Key Takeaways

And now, you know all there is to know about starting a physical therapy business - now, all you have to do is to put the theory into practice and start your own business venture!

Before you begin outlining your business plan, though, let’s run through some of the key steps of opening a physical therapy clinic:

  • Start with creating a business plan that defines the direction of your physical therapy clinic.
  • If you lack the funds, contact your family, friends, private investors, or the bank to help you get started.
  • If you can afford it, hire professionals that will help you to design your physical therapy clinic, deal with the paperwork, analyze the legal aspects of opening a physical therapy clinic, build a website, etc.
  • Develop a unique brand identity and use it online to attract more patients to your physical therapy clinic.
  • Use a practice management software to manage your physical therapy clinic effectively.
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