How to Grow Your Physical Therapy Practice

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Opening and maintaining a successful physical therapy practice - no matter the size - is a big feat in and of itself. But there may come a time when your clinic shows enough promise in your revenue to indicate imminent growth, and since growing a physical therapy clinic is a different challenge than starting one, it’s not always easy to know where to start and the best practices for scaling long-term.

We spoke with DrChrono users Nick Belles of IMC (Integrated Musculoskeletal Care) and Meghan Klein of Odom Rehab about the processes of scaling up their physical therapy operations.

Recruit the Right Providers

If your physical therapy business is ready to grow, you will likely need to start recruiting additional doctors of physical therapy or certified practitioners. Another route during the early stages of expansion is hiring interns.

“Once we found our footing around that five year mark, we had a lot better luck with hiring. Before then, we did things like taking on students to do their internships with us. Then once they graduated, we could take them on full time. We could also build a network through them reaching out to classmates who might be interested in that kind of role,” said Klein.

Hiring physical therapy interns is helpful during the lean stages of growth, but eventually you want to pivot to higher levels of talent. This can be more difficult than expected if you lack a clear profile of the kind of person you want to hire.

Before tossing job postings out into the vast universe of internet job boards, take stock of what kind of care your patients can expect from you and who would be best suited to provide that care. For example, Odom Rehab primarily works with geriatric patients, so they needed physical therapists who were excited about working with that population.

“After a while, we found that it was sometimes difficult to hire a new grad because many sort of viewed this as their stepping stone into the job that they actually wanted. That’s why we had to prioritize identifying the people who really liked to work with geriatrics as opposed to clinicians that just needed an immediate stopgap position.” Klein said.

Your search for physical therapists might be centered around finding passionate providers in your niche like Odom Health’s, or your practice could establish a certain standard of education that you believe feeds nicely into the quality of care you’re providing. That is the approach taken by IMC as they continue to grow their organization.

“One of the things that’s really helped us maintain the quality of care that we provide is that we do have a very specific type of clinician that we’re looking for. Every IMC clinician is certified in Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy, or MDT. This provides a clear baseline of training required from any applicant to our clinics,” said Belles.

In both cases, these physical therapy clinics are ensuring that they hire the right kind of provider who will ideally stick around. Filling open roles is important, but you want to be sure that you are investing in physical therapists who will stay with your company long term.

Establish a Scalable Culture

A strong, replicable culture is something that should drive your decision making as an organization. Culture will determine the kind of person you hire and the way they work day-to-day, and it should be consistent across your company. This can help steady the ship as you continue to grow.

“A key piece of expanding is having your own internal training process designed to help clinicians grow and improve even after they are employed by you,” said Belles.

“We started off with about 15 hours of training around our business and clinical processes for each of our new hires. Then we require them to pass an exam, so that we know that they have competency in what we’re looking for from the clinical process side.”

This process is a great way to quickly get your team up to speed, but you also need to consider how you will drive your team to improve the care they give over time. You do not want the skillsets of your clinicians to remain static.

Instead, as Belles points out, you need to codify opportunities for growth into your standard operations. One way that IMC does this is collecting outcome data. Viewing patient outcomes over time provides crucial insight into whether providers are progressing at a good rate, or if there are areas of education they need more support in.

“We collect things like pain function and level of disability at every visit, and we analyze that data in real time to be able to flag cases that aren’t improving. Then we do group conversations on a weekly basis with each of those clinicians, so that we can ultimately help them and their patients improve,” says Belles.

When growth is baked into the way your physical therapy clinic operates every day, you will find yourself with a better and more scalable practice.

Create Replicable Processes

An attention to detail in your processes will pay off in the long run when opening new offices. Meghan Klein explained that having standards in place for the little things like file organization, or larger details like compensation structures, can make scaling much easier.

“The first thing I did was really utilize Google Drive to share documents throughout the organizations that everyone can easily access. Then as things are updated or modified, they know where to find that information,” she says.

Being flexible when ideas do not pan out is also a great way to find out what works. Operating multiple offices gives you more opportunities to iterate processes until you find the right one.

“What does work, for example, when starting a building, is having a meeting with the residents. You also always have a set meeting with the nurses to learn more about the patients and what prescriptions they take. Then you can more safely and efficiently launch in a new building. The trial and error needed to create this process made it a lot easier to replicate and avoid the mistakes that we made at the beginning.”

Differentiate Your Practices from the Competition

If you are in the position to grow your medical practice, then you likely have something that sets you apart from less successful practices. Those advantages can be the unique therapeutic techniques you provide to patients or even the way that you attract high end talent to your practice. Perhaps you have a specific niche like Odom Rehab who works with geriatric patients in assisted living facilities, or IMC who works with employers and health plans to give care to their members.

“For a clinic that’s looking to grow, the biggest thing is really just trying to find a way to differentiate yourself. We’ve found success with an employer direct contracting route. Frankly, unless you’re a big physical therapy chain, you have to have something that differentiates your practice, so that you can get potential patients from the community to come in or referrals from different doctors in your area,” said Belles.

Spend time considering what sets you apart from other physical therapy clinics, and if you are struggling to figure that out, find some new things to try. Whether you would implement a new treatment, a technology like telehealth or find an underserved audience in your area, this could be the most important step to setting your physical therapy organization up for long term success.

Once you capture your niche, you need to invest in company messaging, networking and establishing an online presence. This will broaden your reach, allowing you to expand your patient pool in new areas.

“Dr. Odom has the sports medicine clinic, and then we have this assisted living side, all under Odom Health and Wellness. This year we rebranded ourselves as Odom Rehab, so that we can start to direct people to this side and have them get the messaging we want them to receive. Though, a lot of what works best for us has been word of mouth and networking because the assisted living community is really small,” Klein said.

Good marketing requires an understanding of your audience and where to find them. Odom Rehab finds the right audiences through more conventional means, but they also have certain clinics that have found success with online tools.

“Our Minnetonka clinic does more marketing than us because they are an official outpatient clinic, so they do a lot with website optimization, social media and emails.”

Though every physical therapy clinic ultimately carves out their own path to growth, looking at the success of organizations like IMC and Odom Rehab can set you in the right direction. They have established growth oriented cultures and best practices across all of their branches, and, in doing so, they have enjoyed great success in their respective physical therapy niches.