Though related to marketing, proper market research is quite distinct, yet essential for physiotherapists aspiring to private practice. It should be conducted prior to implementing the nuts and bolts of a marketing plan, often in conjunction with your business plan.
What are the core elements to investigate as part of market research? As a physiotherapist, it comes down to:
1. Estimating demand for your physiotherapy services
National trends worldwide may point to increased demand for physiotherapy, but your business will be distinctly local in nature. Whether you want to operate in a bustling metropolis or in the countryside, an understanding of local trends is necessary before contemplating more intense research.
Use all the resources at your disposal, especially general practitioners who are often the largest source of patient referrals for start-up clinics. Speaking to them will enable you to gauge the percentage of people they direct to private practices, in addition to keeping your name front and centre in their minds.
While conducting research, you should also network and foster relations with:
- physiotherapy departments in local public and private hospitals
- nursing and retirement homes
- various sports clubs (e.g. football, tennis)
- gyms and recreational centres
Your specialization will dictate the demand for your services. In a more general area like sports therapy, there may be huge demand accompanied by a tremendous amount of competition. Other areas like neurological therapy may have a smaller patient base, but allow billing at higher rates.
2. Evaluating the competition in your immediate surroundings
Competition amongst private practices can be both fierce and deceptive at the same time, because it is not limited to physiotherapists. Other specialists have overlapping professional expertise; for example chiropractors, osteopaths, chiropractors, massage therapists, etc. Also, there are private hospitals, as well as GPs who work mostly with public hospital (in-house) physiotherapists.
Don’t forget that public perception about physiotherapy itself may be “competition” – you may need to educate the public as to the benefits and contributions you can offer them in their pursuit of wellbeing. A well-prepared website can do a great job of this.
3. Identifying patient “types” and choosing the right ones to target for your business
Going after the right patients requires accurate identification of their outstanding characteristics. Fortunately, they can be grouped into a few clear categories:
- Patients covered by health insurance companies, most of who will be referred to you by GPs.
- Patients referred by GPs after they have specifically requested private physiotherapy.
- Patients referred by a GP but whose services are covered by public health insurance schemes, where they exist.
- Self-referral patients, i.e., those who come to you via personal research, your marketing efforts, etc. without GP intervention. They may pay out of their own pockets or be covered by private insurance.
As you can see, market research can be quite involved for physiotherapists in private practice. Take the time to understand what is at play for your future clinic by tapping into the advice of important players and thinking outside the box with your entrepreneur hat on.