Following a surgical procedure, after an accident or during intensive treatment, patients often can’t leave their homes. They might not be able to drive and don’t have the resources to hire transportation to attend physical therapy sessions. To accommodate the home-bound, physical therapists bring the treatment to them. Many home-based therapists work for agencies that provide home healthcare, while others form their own businesses and build a steady stream of clients.
Earn your physical therapist license. Though the requirements for licensing vary from state to state, all 50 states require physical therapists to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination that’s administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. To sit for the exam, you must earn a DPT, or doctorate of physical therapy, that takes about three years following your four-year bachelor degree requirements.
Register as a healthcare provider. You’ll need to check with your local municipality to find out if you need to have a permit to operate a business out of your home. Even though you won’t be seeing patients there, you might use a room as an office. Most cities and counties won’t require a home office permit. In addition, most will rely on your professional license as proof of your qualifications. You should get a tax ID, however, when you register with local healthcare providers as an outside referral source. They need to track referrals and make Medicare, insurance and private referrals only to registered business owners.
Develop referral relationships. When you work for yourself, you won’t have a set group of patients to see each day. Instead, you must rely on the referrals provided by area surgeons, doctors and insurance companies. Build relationships with those professionals that serve the population you are looking to serve. For example, if your specialty is geriatric physical therapy, market yourself to nursing home administrators, geriatric physicians and area aging organizations.
Join a franchise team. Like many other small businesses, the physical therapy industry has a number of franchise operations that you could buy into when you first start your company. By buying into a franchise, you will be provided with a proven business model that includes registration with local healthcare providers and insurance companies. You’ll get back-office support for billing and collections, marketing materials and a web presence. At the same time, you’ll enjoy the freedom and flexibility of being your own boss. Go directly to the home office of a franchise that you’re interested in, or investigate your options with an experienced franchise consultant that you can find through organizations such as the International Franchise Association.
Boost your credibility and add specialties to your practice by becoming board certified after accumulating experience and taking an additional exam.
Physical therapy insurance coverage only occurs when the patient receives a doctor’s referral. Without a doctor’s referral, you’ll need to arrange for private pay.
2016 Salary Information for Physical Therapists
Physical therapists earned a median annual salary of $85,400 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, physical therapists earned a 25th percentile salary of $70,680, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $100,880, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 239,800 people were employed in the U.S. as physical therapists.
- In-Home Therapy Services: Ownership Advantages
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physical Therapists
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Find the Licenses and Permits You Need
- Entrepreneur: Health Care Franchises
- International Franchise Association: Franchise Consulting Services
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Physical Therapists
- Career Trend: Physical Therapists
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."