Physical Therapy Equipment: What Should Your Practice Have?
Providing high quality physical therapy care starts with highly skilled clinicians. Every clinician envisions working in a practice that has the latest and greatest equipment they believe necessary for their patients. Below are key points to consider when determining what type of equipment you should purchase for your practice.
Type of Practice
The first consideration in determining the type of equipment you should have is based on the type of practice. Niche practices in neurological patients or pediatric patients will have very different equipment needs than one where a majority of the patients have orthopedic or sports injuries. Practices who see a mixed variety of patient pathologies will need a variety of equipment to match their population.
Size of Practice
The second major consideration is the size of your practice and the number of staff. For a start-up practice this is usually easy with most starting in small spaces and with 2-3 staff members. However, an existing practice that is moving or expanding will need to have different considerations.
Staff size matters because the more therapists, the more patients will be in the office at once which translates to needing more equipment. The same applies to the administrative office staff where each person needs a desk, chair, computer, phone, etc.
How to Decide the Proper Equipment to Purchase
When starting a practice from scratch it’s often a massive challenge determining what you should be purchasing. Here’s a four-step model to help make these decisions.
- Make a list of the different types of patients, based on their diagnosis, that your practice will be seeing.
- Next make a list of the most important equipment and clinical furniture you will need for each patient type.
- Now, rate each piece of equipment on a scale of 1 (not very important) to 5 (very important) and rate each piece, on the 1-5 scale, on the level of versatility it has for your practice.
- Finally, with your facility space in mind, consider which of your highest rated pieces of equipment is going to fit best within your space.
This process allows you to decide between your wants and needs by prioritizing the equipment that will be most valuable. Naturally spending money on equipment rarely used doesn’t make sense.
Start with Less
It’s good practice to start out with less equipment than you think you need. Your practice doesn’t need to be comprehensively equipped when you first open your doors. Keep in mind you can always add as you go. This has the obvious financial benefit of avoiding some of the initial outlay of money at the start of your practice.
It also allows for an assessment of whether your practice is drawing the type of patient you originally intended. In time can always add more equipment to fit the population. This is an effective way to protect yourself from investing in equipment you don’t need or can’t use.
Financing the Equipment
When planning for the start of your practice, the financial plan needs to cover all the high priority equipment. As mentioned, you don’t need to all the equipment on your list. Financially plan to start with the most important and necessary. You can prioritize your equipment by establishing a secondary list of equipment to purchase 6-12 months after opening.
It may be valuable to weigh the benefits vs the costs of leasing your equipment vs buying it. For many, the relative savings from an equipment lease program is far more affordable than using a substantial part of your start-up capital to purchase outright. However, be sure to consider the tax implications of leasing vs owning. Your accountant can assist in deciding the best option.
Other Equipment Considerations
In addition to the clinical and office equipment, remember to plan for some of the less obvious. Set budget aside for marketing materials, paper goods including letterhead, small equipment such as goniometers, pulse oximeters and tape measures. Consider how to you’ll handle laundry whether it will be sent out or if you’ll need to purchase a washer and dryer.
Another item to add to your list is computer software. One may not typically consider software as equipment, but today it’s a reality. The operation of your practice will be nearly impossible without scheduling, billing and EMR/documentation software. You may wish to include patient engagement software as well to facilitate your marketing and patient interactions.
Being Well Equipped
Great clinical care does not always require having only state of the art equipment. As your practice grows and you understand the needs of your patients, you can continue to add additional equipment.
The bottom line
Whether a start up or an established practice, it’s a great idea to follow a good path.