Physical Therapy

What You Need to Know Before Starting a Mobile Physical Therapy Business

Physical therapy can be a transformative experience for many people, but outpatient physical therapy is not the ideal solution for all patients — or all physical therapists.

In the revolving-door model that characterizes outpatient settings, PTs see several clients a day, which limits the amount of one-on-one time with patients, lengthens treatment cycles, and can eventually lead to burnt-out PTs.

Mobile physical therapy is a viable solution for PTs who want to go solo and clinics looking to expand their offerings. By starting a mobile physical therapy business, PTs are able to dedicate more of their time to the patient’s treatment to ensure they progress and improve clinical outcomes. Clinics, on the other hand, can tap into a new pool of customers and offer flexible physical therapy services to patients with limited mobility.

What does a mobile physical therapy business involve?

In a mobile physical therapy practice, PTs go to their patients instead of having patients visit an outpatient clinic.

Also known as concierge physical therapy, mobile physical therapy enables PTs to provide one-on-one services at their patients’ convenience. They might visit patients at home or even at the office, depending on their schedule and the severity of their patient’s condition.

During the sessions, mobile PTs help patients learn how to use everyday objects to assist exercises but also provide any specialized equipment needed for the patient to meet their physical therapy goals.

What are the benefits of starting a mobile physical therapy business?

Mobile physical therapy allows PTs to take charge of their own business and keep more of their focus on their patients.

More flexibility for both physical therapists and patients

Some patients can find it difficult to travel to and from their physical therapy clinic, but mobile physical therapy creates more accessibility and convenience.

Travel can be a substantial burden on older adults with limited mobility and patients recovering from injury or surgery. If they cannot drive themselves to their appointments, they must rely on family members or pay extra for transportation which increases the overall costs of the treatment. But when their PT sees them in the comfort of their own home, the patient can focus on their recovery rather than how they will get to and from appointments.

Meanwhile, mobile PTs and concierge physical therapy clinics can benefit from expanding their pool of clients to those who prefer at-home treatment. And without the constraints of a clinic’s working hours, PTs can enjoy more flexible schedules.

Better quality care

Many PTs working in clinics see several patients every day, and the sheer volume of work makes it challenging for PTs to make the most out of every appointment. By starting a mobile physical therapy business, PTs can have more time with each patient and provide them with better care.

For numerous PTs, workweeks that extend beyond 40 hours are the norm. Depending on the clinic, they might see a new patient every 15 to 30 minutes. Exhausted, overbooked PTs with little time to work with patients can scarcely offer the top quality of care they’d otherwise like.

A mobile PT business ensures patients have more one-on-one time with their physical therapists, so they can recover faster. The patient’s home also provides a calm environment where they already feel comfortable and can focus more on their treatment, allowing them to progress and recover faster.

Ultimately, better quality care leads to satisfied patients who are more likely to recommend the mobile PT or concierge physical therapy clinic to others. Considering 83% of consumers “completely or somewhat trust recommendations from friends and family,” according to Nielsen, referrals are a valuable way to attract more patients.

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What are the challenges of mobile physical therapy?

While there are numerous advantages to being a mobile PT, starting a mobile physical therapy business comes with its own set of unique challenges.

Injury and liability concerns

Mobile PTs assume all the risks and liabilities that come with running their own business.

One risk stems from the environment where physical therapy takes place. While a traditional clinic offers a controlled environment for a patient’s treatment, their home can pose risks for injury or other liability concerns.

If a patient is injured under a PT’s care, they can sue for medical malpractice or negligence, which is both expensive and damaging to a PT’s or clinic’s professional reputation. As a precaution, mobile PTs and concierge physical therapy clinics should invest in insurance to protect themselves in the event of a lawsuit.

Added costs of running a business

Before starting a mobile physical therapy business on their own, PTs should become familiar with all the costs of running a small business. They include startup expenses, legal fees, insurance, and other overhead costs.

Marketing is essential for every new business, so both PTs and clinics need to factor in the costs of promoting their concierge services, especially if they plan to hire marketing experts to do the job for them.

While it is true that mobile PTs can save money because they do not have to rent and equip a clinic, they incur other expenses in the form of vehicle and fuel costs as they shuttle between patients. Driving to and from appointments could also increase the amount of time the PT spends working during the day. Physical therapy clinics that decide to launch concierge services also need to factor in transportation expenses.

Mobile PTs who are launching their own business should consider purchasing disability insurance, in case an accident prevents them from working. An additional cost comes in the form of invoicing platforms. They usually charge a fee to process invoices, which can add up over time. Likewise, credit card transaction fees can also cut into a PT’s profits. They range from 1.5% to 3.5%.

Photo by Austin Distel

Tips for starting a mobile physical therapy business

Whether you’re a PT looking to start your own business or a clinic ready to expand into mobile services, these tips will set you up for success.

Invest in mobile-friendly equipment

To bring the clinic to the patient’s home, mobile PTs need to provide all the equipment that their treatment requires.

Mobile PTs need equipment that is easy to pack up and transport from patient to patient, such as a treatment table and lightweight exercise equipment like resistance bands. Alternatively, they can suggest to the patient to purchase some of the equipment, especially if they need to exercise on their own in between sessions.

Although physical therapy clinics that decide to offer concierge services benefit from already having this equipment, it might not be easy to transport. So, they would still need to purchase items that are easier to shuttle from patient to patient.

Maintain proper documentation policies

PTs that are starting their own concierge physical therapy business need to implement proper documentation policies. Proper documentation covers the initial examination and evaluation, any following visits, reexamination, and a summary of the conclusion of care. Even though mobile PTs don’t work in a clinic, they still need to maintain thorough, accurate records to meet regulatory requirements like HIPAA.

When starting a mobile physical therapy business, PTs can benefit from electronic medical records (EMR) software that ensures consistent documentation from the beginning. It also helps to fill out documentation during sessions to ease the PT’s workload at the end of the day.

Invest in marketing

Whether you’re a clinic or a PT running your own business, marketing is essential to getting your new service off the ground. An online presence, such as a website and a Google Business Profile, is the foundation of your marketing efforts, considering 68% of patients research healthcare providers online.

Reviews are another important aspect of marketing, as 72% of patients read online reviews when selecting a healthcare clinic or physician. Requesting a review via text or email can engage satisfied patients who otherwise wouldn’t have written a review, helping promote your concierge services.

Outsource your billing

A third-party billing provider can help PTs avoid unnecessary overhead. Medical billing is complex, especially for PTs who accept Medicare and insurance. A billing provider saves PTs precious time on administrative work such as reimbursement, so they can direct their attention to their patients.

Join a professional organization

Because mobile PTs usually work on their own, they can benefit from joining professional organizations like the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists (AAOMPT). Such communities can help them network, grow their business, and stay updated on industry regulations, research, and innovative treatments in the realm of physical therapy.

Build a referral network

Starting a mobile physical therapy business means working independently, so mobile PTs typically rely on referrals from other medical professionals to bring in patients.

To build a strong referral network, mobile PTs can use data such as patient satisfaction to prove the efficacy of their treatment to other medical professionals.

Upgrade your mobile physical therapy business with digital solutions

Mobile PTs no longer have to rely only on their skills and expertise to deliver quality care to their patients. Research has shown that digital physical therapy services, delivered via mobile apps, can reduce pain and improve patient function.

Technology such as Exer’s AI-enabled physical therapy apps can support PTs and clinics entering the mobile physical therapy space, helping them improve the quality of care and track patients’ progress. As telemedicine continues to evolve, mobile PTs who implement tech solutions into their practice will be prepared to provide the best possible treatment to their patients.

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