Today we're glad to share Part II of our interview on starting a medically oriented gym with Jonathan Di Lauri, MPT, CMP, TPI CGFI. Jon is the Owner of JointCare Physical Therapy, a Head Therapist, and Golf Performance Expert. If you missed Part I of our interview you can get it here. Thanks again, Jon! 

What about location? What type of space is needed?
We have a 60,000 square foot gym across the street (it’s Lifetime Fitness) and we still have a strong clientele list. All of our members are past patients who most likely wouldn't join a gym had it not been
for the exceptional treatment and education they received while in rehab.  It’s all about building relationships with your patients. Do people trust you and what you are doing? If you build trust, they are more willing to work with you outside of insurance reimbursement. One of our therapists is also a Pilates instructor. In our gym, she’s an independent contractor. We have another therapist who owns his own education company. The therapists are tapping into their patient base for the patients who truly want to make changes to their lifestyle but have nowhere trustworthy to turn. The people who receive good therapy and trust their therapist are willing to go out of pocket for services they believe in!

What is the business model for a medically oriented gym?
We knew we needed people to pay a monthly fee in order to cover the equipment and location costs. With some simple math, we figured out that we needed 12 to 15 clients to cover the monthly equipment costs and break even. We already had an open space so we just created the components of a typical gym. Our gym includes a cardiovascular area, resistance training area, and space for functional training/classes. It’s a space that both patients and members share. Obviously that’s just how we did it. Everyone will have their own needs. Since we opened the gym in 2008, we’ve grown to 100 members. At $40 a month, that's almost $50,000 a year in passive, cash based revenue, not to mention the word of mouth advertising and the benefit of retaining clients.  We also now have a clientele of people willing to listen and participate with anything we offer.

How is managing a medically oriented gym different from managing a clinic?
We do not hire employees. That’s what makes the management of it quite simple. We basically charge our independent contractors a usage fee. Instead of paying people to work for us, the contractor keeps records
of what they do. They are motivated to run their own business and we reap the benefit of how hard they are willing to work. They pay us a percentage of their total earnings. They don’t have to pay rent and it takes the burden off of them. It allows us to earn secondary revenue. And they are empowered to pursue their passion outside of just treating patients all day.

There are some small legal things our contractors need to do. They need a waiver of liability form and they need to show that they are separating what they do at the gym from the physical therapy. We also
use a software called iGoFigure for tracking membership. The software allows us to put our members in the computer and track usage and fees. Our front office staff manages the practice with WebPT and the gym with iGoFigure software. The software assigns each member a keytag and they simply swipe it under a scanner upon entry.

As the owner, I simply tell my vendors to submit their fees at the end of the month. I look at a few numbers and that’s it! The only other management is planning the growth and depth of the business.

What’s one thing you wish you had known prior to opening a medically oriented gym? I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees and hours on computers creating the model. What’s most important to understand is that it’s a decent undertaking. It’s going to command your time initially but will become less intensive as time goes on. There are financial, legal, and logistical implications that require serious study. Where the industry is headed with reimbursement... it’s a good thing to do. I went big right off the top. I bit off a lot. Starting on a smaller scale may be a good idea.

What advice do you have for PTs who are looking to increase revenue for their clinic?
Buy my DVD and give it to your patients! Ok, I’m sort of joking and sort of not joking. PTs are at the top of the food chain when it comes to movement. We need to teach the general public how to take care of their bodies. Physical therapists need to be at the forefront of healthcare...not sick care. If that doesn’t stop, we’re in trouble.

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