Our contributing blogger today is WebPT Member, Jack Sparacio, MSPT, COMT, CFMT. He is also the Owner and President of Sparacio Physical Therapy P.C. in New York. We're excited to have Jack sharing his expertise. Thanks, Jack!
Starting a Clinic
I know what you’re thinking. There is no way you can open an outpatient private practice for less than $8,000. But the truth is, you can. There are plenty of articles out there that will tell you that opening a private practice requires tens of thousands of dollars and a team of accountants, lawyers, and consultants. While that might be the case for some people, it does not have to be the case for you. All it takes is a little creativity—and being a cheapskate. Let’s call it being “creatively efficient.” Of course, you will need patients. We will discuss getting patients later.
Let’s first take a look at what I mean by being creatively efficient. Buying equipment for your office does not need to break the bank. And with the Internet, you can quickly compare prices to save significant amounts of money. Why spend $3,500 on a high-end ultrasound-electric stimulation combo machine when you can buy separate portable ultrasound and electrical stimulation units for about $100 each? You will have a lot of choices to make. Just make the more efficient choice in each instance. You can buy a $3,000 automatic high-low treatment table or an economical wooden table (with an adjustable backrest) and a step stool for under $500. Or, watch for other clinics going out of business, and you may be able to snag a high-low table at a discount. You can buy electrodes for $10 per pack or for $2 per pack (which I just did recently). You can buy massage cream for $28 a jar, or for $14 a jar. You get my point. Just do a little bit of research and you can save more than 50% on most items. Use your referral and peer resources and networking to find good deals. Most patients don’t care about fancy bells and whistles. They just want to get better.
Designing Your Space
Furthermore, there is a very practical method to designing your office. Do you need to buy bulky and expensive exercise machines, or can you accomplish the same goals with smaller, less expensive materials? A great idea is to utilize different length ballet bars attached to various positions (top, bottom, and middle) on a wall. You can then attach various sport-cords and resistance bands for patients to perform hundreds of exercises. Also, keep in mind that when designing an exercise program for a patient, they are not going to have access to that expensive exercise equipment at home. Giving them exercises in your office utilizing sport cords and resistance bands ensures that those exercises are reproducible and practical in a home environment. Moreover, not having all those large exercise machines will enable you to utilize your space more efficiently. Do you need to rent the 3,000-square-foot office and pay rent for space you are hoping to grow into? Or can you get your practice up and running in the 800- to 1,000-square-foot office for one-third the rent? Growing out of your office is a better problem to have than paying for space you are not utilizing. Subleasing space from other health professionals or health clubs can also be an affordable alternative.
Marketing Your Services
When it comes to marketing and acquiring patients, there are only a few things you will need. You will need business cards and letterhead. At this time, you do not need to spend money on any other marketing materials. You don’t need brochures, “Welcome to the Practice” folders, newsletters, or even a website. (Although, if you plan on growing your practice in the age of the Internet-savvy patient, you will definitely need a website eventually—along with a digital marketing strategy. Learn more about the basics of digital marketing in WebPT's free marketing e-book.) There is no magic marketing widget that is going to have your phone ringing off the wall with new patients. The most important thing you need is time. You need to take the time to go out and establish relationships in the local community. Yes, I know your time is valuable, but there is nothing that can take the place of a strong personal relationship with a local referral source (physician, physician’s assistant, personal trainer, etc.). And the good news is you don’t have to lay out any money for your time.
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Managing Your Practice
As far as practice management goes, there are methods available to get your practice up and running in a very affordable manner. Outsourcing your billing to a medical billing company can be one such method. A billing company will take anywhere from 5–12% of the money they collect from you. However, you will not need to lay out all the money that is associated with billing for your services. For example, you don’t need to purchase a billing software program or hire and train a staff person to manage your office’s billing. In the early stages of developing a new business, most of your time should be dedicated to providing exceptional care and acquiring new patients. Without patients, your business will have a challenging time being profitable.
There you have it: How to start an outpatient private practice for less than $8,000. Have any advice to share about your own experience starting your practice? Tell us—and your peers—in the comment section below.