There is no time like the present. Or at least goes the old saying. If you’re embarking on a new journey in your career and thinking of starting your own practice, we can’t be more thrilled for you. We also understand, however, that this new endeavor can be frightening, since therapy clinics are nothing like the average business. Let’s walk through a few high-priority items to iron out before starting your own therapy practice.
- Understand Your Niche
As you know, patients receive physical therapy for endless reasons and the interventions can be just as diverse. Though it’s tempting to serve as an “every man”, (and certainly if you’re just starting out, you can’t exactly turn away revenue), finding your niche can help you stand out and really deliver great outcomes. Is sports therapy your forte? Will you treat primarily children or geriatric patients? Perhaps spinal care is where you feel most at home.
Knowing where your talents lie can help you better direct your treasures. That means purchasing the right equipment, marketing appropriately, developing strong professional relationships, and mastering insurance billing. It can also help you stand out in your local market and meet an otherwise unfulfilled need for the community.
- Find the Right Software Stack
No practice can operate efficiently (and in some cases, legally) without an EHR (electronic health record). And, on the other hand, the wrong EHR can slow down your business, frustrating staff and patients. Here are a few things to look for when shopping around for an EHR vendor.
- Specialty-specific – as a physical therapist, you and your patients have different needs than a general practitioner – or any other kind of practitioner for that matter. And your software should meet those specific needs. The design and interface of the software should match your workflows and thought processes.
- Billing functionality – though you got into business to help people, the cash flow of your clinic is what allows you to keep doing the good work that you do. Make sure your EHR is equipped with the tools and staff you need to not only bill and file claims but also to manage revenue and follow up on claims.
- Credit card processing – an often overlooked feature when it comes to choosing an EHR, having credit card processing integrated directly into your EHR saves time and eliminates the need for after-the fact reconciliation.
- Telehealth and client portal – regardless of what the future holds, the COVID pandemic forever changed the way we deliver healthcare. A telehealth offering is becoming more of the norm even for physical, occupational, and speech therapy, and patients are coming to expect it. Continue to deliver care with integrated telehealth. You may find it opens doors for your clinic by allowing you to broaden the geographical radius of patients you can serve and by preventing missed appointments for patients who may be anxious, have transportation concerns, face mobility challenges or any other roadblocks to in-person appointments. A client portal likewise helps bridge the gap between patient and provider by offering document transfer, the ability to view records, and secure messaging.
- Intuitive design and great service – what good is onboarding a new software system if it’s too difficult to understand or takes too much time to manage. Don’t let promised functionality take away from your EHRs ROI, find something that’s a pleasure to use. Onboarding should be a breeze, your staff should be adequately trained, and support should be helpful and readily available.
- Build Your Dream Team
There’s so much more involved in running a successful therapy practice than fantastic patient care. You’ll need to master patient relations, understand software, make sure billing and claims are handled appropriately. So, if you think you’re going to need some extra hands, now is the time to begin your search.
Think strategically about the needs of your practice. Understand if it’s more important to hire a jack-of-all trades office admin superstar or could you benefit from another provider to double the patient load and bring in revenue to cover overhead. Maybe there’s a particular specialty that would be valuable to have on board.
From there, start reaching out in your network. Ask for referrals to find stellar candidates and start interviewing.
- Iron Out Billing
Likely, revenue will come from a mix of patient responsibility and insurance payments. Since cash flow is what’s going to keep your business afloat. Here are a few ways to make sure both are working for your new practice.
- Offer credit card processing – the ability to accept credit cards is not only more convenient for our patients it can help you capture otherwise lost revenue and prevent missed payments.
- Write and post a payment policy – it’s easy for patients to get confused about what is their responsibility, especially if they’re using insurance to cover some of your services. Write an easy-to-understand payment policy and include it with all new patient paperwork and clearly post it in your office.
- Automate patient statements – patient statements, whether sent by email or snail mail are an important part of capturing revenue from self-pay patients, but they can be a real drain on your admin staff and postage costs can really add up. Find a service that automates this process for you.
- Determine what payers you will work with – do some research to find out who the common providers are in your area.
- Enrollment and credentialing – before you can start accepting payment from payers, you will need to be credentialed and follow through with their enrollment, a process that can take several months, so make sure to start well before you plan on billing.
- Learn the codes – when it comes to billing and submitting claims to your insurance providers, make sure to study up on your billing codes to avoid denials and rejections.
- Master your revenue cycle – denied and rejected claims can drastically slow down revenue generation. And, as accounts receivable age, they depreciate, so it’s important to get paid as quickly and as easily as possible. Now is the time to learn how to resolve denials, or decide if you’d like to work with a third party service like a clearinghouse or billing services offered through your EHR.
- Get Strategic About Marketing
Marketing may seem like an alien landscape, especially if you’re more focussed on providing stellar patient care than driving leads. But understanding marketing basics and taking care of those needs now can set your practice up for success.
Start with your brand. Determine what sets your practice apart from others in the area – and back it up with proof and values. Then, find a way to represent these values in assets like your logo, website, print materials, etc.
Once your fundamentals are in place, start getting the word out there. Set some goals and lay out a strategy and timeline for achieving them. Here are some ideas:
- Schedule meetings with local physicians and prepare leave-behind materials to build relationships and secure referrals.
- Post on social media.
- Grab a spot on the local drive-time radio.
- Mail a postcard to residents near your office.
- Start sending a customer newsletter.
Marketing possibilities are endless. Start with what will give you the most bang for your buck, keep an eye on the results, and optimize as you go.
Here for the Long Run
Building strong foundations prior to the launch of your clinic allows you to blaze a clear path for the future. Have a software partner that not only helps you navigate that path but that solves problems and facilitates growth. Fusion is a full-featured, physical, occupational, and speech therapy-specific EHR designed specifically with therapists in mind. Get a demo and see how we can support your new clinic.