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Is now the right time to start your physiotherapy private practice?

Physiotherapists have always been among the most flexible health care professionals when it comes to adapting to local, national and even global economic conditions. Now as we embark on the century’s second decade, recent trends have made private practice even more attractive for recent graduates, as well as seasoned professionals who now work in the public sector or at another private practice. Now could well be right time to start your physiotherapy private practice

In Australia, the billion dollar physiotherapy services “industry” experienced a 5.5% growth rate between 2005 and 2009 and is projected to exceed the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rate until at least 2015. Similar projections exist for the United States, Canada and Great Britain, among other industrialised nations.

Several factors make private physiotherapy a viable business, including:

  • An ageing population.
  • Increased incidence of chronic diseases.
  • Better acceptance of private health insurance by citizens.
  • Recognition of physiotherapy’s growing role within national health care systems.

Before leaping into private practice, however, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have the right personality for the rigours of owning a private clinic?
  • Can I access referral and support networks that will help me get through those crucial early years?
  • Do I have the desire to pick up the necessary business and administrative acumen to match my physical therapy skills?

Certainly, the commitment and motivation required to get your physiotherapy business off the ground will present many challenges in your life. It’s a given that your long hours of toil (nights, weekends, holidays, etc.) will put a strain on your family and social life. Unlike your studies at university, there is no defined path to follow and often times it will appear as though you are flying by the seat of your pants.

In the end, though, you will succeed because of your energy, passion and commitment to the health and wellness of your community. However, to get things off the ground you must face a number of important issues:

1. Writing a Business Plan

A business plan is a key document that will outline your goals, how you intend to run your private practice and the structural (legal), marketing and financial framework jump starting your venture. Carefully consider the audience for this document, as it will prove your seriousness to bankers, investors, suppliers, etc.

2. Deciding where you want to practice

Location, location, location! It will be the most critical element in determining your private clinic’s viability. Check out the business landscape where you are now – what is the demand for physiotherapy in your immediate area? Are established competitors already in place? Remember, a concentration of existing practices in place usually indicates high demand for physiotherapists. Remote areas certainly need your services too, but you may have to consider offering mobile services to grow your practice.

3. Initial equipment needs

The tools of your trade will depend on your specialisation, your patients’ profiles and the accessibility of your care facilities.

4. Finding patients

Whether you set up shop in the countryside or a busy metropolitan district, you will need a dynamic marketing strategy that targets:

  1. Hospitals, GPs, colleagues in health care.
  2. Patients who independently seek out physiotherapy.
  3. Health insurance companies.
  4. Others who can spread your name through word of mouth.

5. Your Fee Structure

In the beginning, it will be a tight balancing act to charge patients a fair price for your services. On the one hand, you may be forced to follow a “loss leader” strategy to get people into your clinic. Yet, offering prices that are too low will jeopardize your business viability and service quality perception.

As you can see, setting up a private physiotherapy practice is a real business. It requires skills that are quite unrelated to your core university studies or public sector work experience. Still, the factors and considerations discussed here should give you ample food for thought when considering health care entrepreneurship.