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Opening a Private Practice

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The lure of private practice tempts many clinicians. The opportunity to specialize, the freedom to pursue your ideal work-life balance, and the liberation from sometimes unfortunate management practices are just a few reasons why private practice is appealing. So, what does it take to set up your practice?

Have a Plan

Anyone starting a business should begin the process by completing a business plan. This is important as it will help identify what the opportunities and challenges will be so that you can plan your business accordingly. The Small Business Administration is an excellent starting point for determining beginning this process.

Professional Requirements

As long as you have state licensure, you may open a private physical therapy practice. Different eligibility requirements exist from state to state, so be sure to comply with your state’s licensing and regulation (registration, certification) requirements. Don’t risk being charged with practicing without a license or providing services outside the scope of practice stipulated in your state’s licensure law. Since you are opening a business, you may need a business or occupational license so check with your local government to ensure your business is in compliance with local laws. You can obtain a copy of the state licensure law from your State Licensure Board.  Contact your state health department to determine if there are other requirements with which you must comply as a health care provider, such as the length of time you must retain medical records, privacy/confidentiality laws, etc.

State/Local Requirements

If you plan to work from home, you may need to ensure that your local zoning laws permit you to conduct business from your home or to display ads on your property. Ensure that your clients’ vehicles will not violate local parking bylaws. Check with your local zoning board. If you intend to lease commercial space, then your landlord will be able to provide some information on these matters.

Home Insurance Needs

Your home insurance company will also want to be aware if you are using your home for business purposes because your insurance coverage and premiums may need to be adjusted.

Liability Insurance

To ensure that you spend all your time running your business and none of it fending off legal actions, it is important that you become very familiar with APTA’s scope of practice for physical therapy, position statements, code of ethics, preferred practice patterns, your state's practice act and medicare rules and regulations.  Since you need to hire an attorney to help you set up the legal structure of your business anyway (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or limited liability company), you should review the sort of legal actions that could be brought against you, and seek guidance for ways to prevent such unpleasant claims from arising. You will need liability insurance for your business regardless of the legal structure of the company. Become aware of the various forms of liability: intentional harm, negligent harm, strict liability, vicarious liability (e.g., an employee does something that in some way injures one of your customers), and of course, criminal liability. In addition, failure to follow your state's regulations regarding the practice of physical therapy in your state can result in legal action against you.

Resources Available for Your Successful Start-up

There are a wide variety of services and organizations available to help you get your business off the ground. The local Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Administration, local and state business development services, APTA, and various online and in-person networking opportunities are rich resources. Make full use of these resources. Get an accountant who can advise you on business set-up as it relates to taxation, accounts receivable, billing, and withholding tax. Your attorney can prepare any documents you may need for your business start-up as well as other on-going legal needs. Take advantage of the wide array of business support services and networking opportunities that are out there and watch your business grow.