Innovative Growth


Developing a practice of entrepreneurial physical therapists.

By Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, MS, OCS
Providing resources to educate employees on developing a self-sustaining schedule and their own clientele is an important component of a practice’s marketing plan. A successful practice in today’s health care environment has a team of entrepreneurial-minded physical therapists. Physical therapists who own their own practices typically have an entrepreneurial spirit. The characteristics of an entrepreneur (drive, versatility, motivation, and innovation) lead these clinicians/practice owners to develop a following and a caseload of patients in their community. Past and present patients refer their friends and family, and these referrals often recommend the practice and this physical therapist. As a practice grows and new physical therapists join the team, increased marketing and public relations efforts become important. Though willing to see a full caseload of patients, the new physical therapists may lack the entrepreneurial spirit, skill, and knowledge required to build their practice. Despite the size of a practice, time and effort dedicated to educating physical therapists new to the practice on how to develop a following should be implemented. A practice of entrepreneurial-minded physical therapists can result in clinicians with self-sustaining caseloads, ultimately reducing the overall marketing expenses of a practice. Consider the following guidelines and toolkit when mentoring physical therapists and providing them with opportunities to develop their entrepreneurial spirit: Physical therapists should maintain relationships with patients Building lasting relationships with patients takes significant effort. A patient’s discharge date should not be the last contact a physical therapist has with his or her patient. Here are some tips for continuing a relationship with past patients:
  • Send birthday or holiday cards. People receive less and less mail these days and appreciate the effort. Consider unique times of the year such as St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween.
  • Be active on social media. Write a blog and share information that is valuable to patients and the “type” of patient you want to see. For example, a physical therapist who wants to treat running injuries can share relevant tips and information and be seen as the expert in this field.
  • Set reminders to contact patients at certain periods post-discharge to check on their progress.
  • Offer gift certificates to local coffee shops as a way to thank past patients who refer friends or family.
  • Offer a 1-year checkup consultation.
Physical therapists should get involved in the community By dedicating a certain amount of time to become active in the community, a physical therapist can develop new relationships that will result in new patients.
  • Volunteer for local nonprofit organizations that support a community of patients you would like to see. Examples include the Arthritis Foundation, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, or others.
  • Provide information and free screenings at events. Offer to provide a warm-up before a local walk or run, and prevention and injury advice.
  • Support local sports teams by providing free screenings and injury prevention advice at the start of a season.
  • Offer your expertise to vendors—a presentation on running injuries at a local running store, injury prevention at a chamber of commerce event, “Ask a PT” sessions at the local gym.
Physical therapists should develop relationships with physicians or other referral sources Strategically developing relationships with referral sources will lead to patients being directed to specific physical therapists due to their “expert” knowledge and skills.
  • Offer to provide resources to help referral sources. This can differentiate an individual physical therapist in their areas of expertise or focus.
  • Physical therapists can thank referral sources for sending patients—send a handwritten thank you note or personally drop off clinical correspondence.
  • Invite referral sources to events they may be interested in such as a chamber of commerce or fundraising event.
Each and every physical therapist has the opportunity to build and maintain his or her practice. With the development of these essential marketing and entrepreneurial skills, success is just around the corner.


Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, is the chair of the PPS PR and Marketing Committee and chief executive officer of Performance Physical Therapy in Rhode Island. She can be reached at

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