Opening a New ABA Therapy Practice: Five Things to Avoid

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

It takes some serious courage to go it alone and start your own ABA therapy practice. Starting a solo practice can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, but it can be a stressful endeavor without proper planning. If you’re the verge of stepping out on your own or have recently done so, you’re in the right place. Below are some common missteps that therapists make when opening their own therapy practice.

1. Underestimating time

So the saying goes, “the best time to start something is now,” and many therapists make the leap into private practice before they have looked into the steps necessary to ensure their success. If you want to avoid being one of the 8 out of 10 new business owners with failed ventures, then do your best to start your practice on the right foot. What does that mean and what does that have to do with timing? Starting a new ABA therapy practice takes more than your expertise in the field. You will need the aid of lawyers to help you navigate employment and business law, real estate agents to help you find the perfect space, and even other practice owners. Yes. You will need to study and learn from the competition. All of that requires a careful calculation of time that you need to consider when making the transition from employee to employer.

2. Underestimating cost

Unless you are independently wealthy, starting your own practice requires an outside investment of capital. In order to secure the right amount of funding to survive those lean startup years, you have to account for the type of services you will offer, the rate you will charge clients, how you intent to collect payment (private pay, insurance or both), the type of space you will need and more. Many new practice owners do not take the cost of an EMR or practice management system into consideration because they believe it’s an unnecessary initial expense. However, factoring in the cost of a practice management system upfront helps ensure your business is well-organized. Also, it saves you valuable time and money in the future. Starting your practice with a customizable EMR system is good preemptive way to develop best practices and procedures for your staff in everything from billing and claims to scheduling and contact management.

Technology has come a long way in healthcare. With some of the EMR and practice management systems available, therapists can track a client’s progress using electronic charting systems that will graph by everything from score and duration to percent independence and time sampling. In most cases, you probably have used an EMR in some form and are familiar with how it works. With therapy work increasingly migrating away from paper files to electronic data collection, it’s best to do your homework to find a system that will give you the most value for your money. Check with others in your specialty area (ABA therapy, SLP, etc) to see what EMR and practice management systems they would recommend. Research features you think you would need to get started and request a demo from various software companies that peak your interest.

4. Underestimating growth strategies

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst is a motto everyone has heard. However, the opposite is true as well. You need to plan for the BEST case scenario as well. Every practice owner wants establish a firm client base, attract new talent and grow their business over time. Surprisingly, many therapists underestimate how quickly their practice can expand because they are so focused on making sure their business survives those tricky first years. If you provide specialty services or open your practice in a under-served market, you can experience exceptional growth in a short amount of time. That is why is it important to have a plan in place in the event you have more growth than anticipated. How will you source, interview and hire qualified talent for your business? What positions will you need to hire for first to ensure that your practice doesn’t suffer tremendously from growing pains? Figuring out the answers to these and other questions will help save you time and allow you to make confident business decisions in the future.

5. Underestimating the business side of therapy

It’s likely that you decided to step out on your own because you want to provide top-notch care to patients. There is no reason that motivation cannot be the driving factor in your new venture but it certainly cannot be your only focus. You have to take care of business for your business to take care of you. If you don’t have much business savvy (and it’s perfectly okay if you don’t), remember to make the most of your time by learning all you can from the best in the business. Join LinkedIn groups to talk to other healthcare experts who have started their own practice. If you haven’t already, join professional organizations to get industry-specific updates and network with others who are doing what you wish to be. Many people are happy to offer their advise and some may be willing to even mentor you as well.