Each year, hundreds of aspiring physiotherapy clinic owners make the decision to branch out on their own and set up their own practices. This is a major career step and careful planning is needed at each stage of the process. In this text, we set out 5 suggested groups of action items to follow in this process. We hope that this information will be useful to those asking themselves the question “how do I set up my new physiotherapy clinic?” While many will be in a rush to start choosing (for example) Treatment Tables for the practice, it is important to recognize that there are important questions to answer before that stage. In many instances, the answers to these questions will help to determine how to approach the more exciting decisions that you will take further down the road.
You will need to complete many of the items below with the assistance of your professional advisors – lawyers, accountants, etc. The purpose of this text is to provide a checklist of the decisions you need to make to ensure that you will be able to make them on a timely basis. If you fail to consider some of these questions until your clinic is up and running, you may have missed the opportunity to maximize your clinic’s chances for success.
In addition to the steps we outline below, you should check with your professional body (e.g. the Ontario Physiotherapy Association) for any additional helpful resources they may have.
Step #1 – Define The Physiotherapy Business You Wish To Set Up
The first key question to answer as you set up your physiotherapy clinic is deciding what type of business you want to have. Will it be a traditionally run clinic or will it be a home based or mobile practice? Another option would be to set up a tele-rehabilitation practice. Under this type of setup, you would deliver rehabilitation services using telecommunication technology and/or the internet. This would be a safer option (other things being equal) in the face of a pandemic such as the ongoing one due to COVID-19.
You will also need to decide whether you will set up your clinic to provide only physiotherapy services. The other alternative would be to opt for a multi disciplinary practice. The obvious advantages to choosing a multi disciplinary option is the greater revenue potential that comes with a wider range of services. However, you will also face the challenge of the need to train employees to have a wider range of skills as well as the need to comply with the requirements of multiple professional bodies.
Will the clinic staff be hired employees or would you prefer to have them operate as independent contractors?
You will also need to decide on the composition of your staffing. A key decision will be whether staffing will need to include unregulated healhcare professionals as part of the care delivery process. If yes, you will need to plan to ensure that these individuals have access to the training and knowledge they will need to perform effectively.
Step #2 – Business Practice Decisions
The second key set of decisions you will face as you set up your physiotherapy clinic mainly concerns the business aspects of the clinic. You should make most of these decisions under the supervision of your lawyer and accountant. They include:
- Will you operate as a sole proprietor, incorporated business or under another structure?
- Decide what your key competencies are and what your target market will be;
- Understand the payment systems, funding sources and insurance requirements relevant to your area of practice;
- Decide on your fee schedule;
- Create a business plan to see how long it will take to break even, what your revenue growth targets need to be and the operating expense levels you can afford. If you need to apply for credit facilities from a financial institution, your business plan will be a critical ingredient in a successful application;
- Prepare employment or contractor contracts for your staff;
- Draft promotional and marketing materials. Hire a web developer to create a website for your clinic.
Step #3 – Physical Layout & Equipment Needs
Having decided on your key competencies and target market, you are now in a position to decide on the layout and equipment needs of the physiotherapy clinic you will set up. In making these decisions, you will need to be cognizant of provincial and municipal requirements for accessibility (e.g. for handicapped individuals). You will also need to ensure compliance with any professional, provincial and municipal requirements relating to the installation, maintenance and use of specialized equipment such as lasers.
Once you have decided on the equipment you will be using in your clinic, you will need to establish policies and procedures relating to the upkeep and maintenance of that equipment.
Step #4 – Decide On Infection Control Procedures
As you set up your physiotherapy clinic, you will want to keep abreast of all professional, provincial and municipal requirements relating to infection control. In addition, you will need to be aware of the latest infection control products and practices. You will also need to create procedures for cleaning the premises and equipment and for the removal of waste materials in general and hazardous materials in particular.
For further guidance on infection control and a program for personal protective equipment (PPE) usage, you can read this post. Particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, you will want to be sure that your clinic will have access to all the PPE products that it may need.
Step #5 – Create Patient Privacy & RecordKeeping Procedures For Your Physiotherapy Clinic
The fifth step in the set up of your physiotherapy clinic is the establishment of policies and procedures to maintain patient privacy. This will include reviewing professional, provincial and municipal privacy laws. You should also appoint a member of your staff to serve as a Privacy Compliance Officer. Confidentiality agreements relating to patient records will also need to be prepared for signature by your staff. Other requirements relating to privacy are:
- Work with your Privacy Compliance Officer to develop policies and procedures to maintain patient privacy;
- Arrange for all staff to receive initial and ongoing training in these procedures;
- Make arrangements to ensure security of patient records (computer backups, etc.);
- Establish procedures for the release of patient information in response to a legitimate request.