In recent years, private practice has become a more viable and profitable alternative for those therapists graduating from occupational therapy schools. Occupational therapists are increasingly turning towards opportunities to work in private practice with patients who are home based as well as those in the community. Private practice allows occupational therapists to be independent and flexible as well as grow on the professional front.
However, a successful private practice works very much like a business enterprise and occupational therapists venturing into this area require planning and marketing skills that occupational therapy schools do not prepare them for.
For instance, in order to have a client base and to attract new clients, as an occupation therapist, you need to market your private practice. Effective marketing of your private practice can communicate the importance of occupational therapy services to the target audience.
Private practice marketing begins by assessing the nature of the demand for occupational therapy services as well as the potential buyers of these types of services. Data needs to be collected on these potential buyers through public health agencies, health systems agencies etc. This information provides the broad market trends and future needs of health care in the target market. In order to make your practice viable, you need to act on this data and plan your marketing strategy.
Next, you need to divide the market into segments based on geographic, demographic, psychographic and behavioral variables. Once the segments have been identified each segment needs to be examined to check on the existing competition and the level of service. This analysis will tell you about the gaps in services and if the markets in that segment are underdeveloped.
Finally, you need to assess the clinical and management skills that you have against those required for each segment. By doing this you will have identified your strengths and weaknesses and any scope for training. The financial requirements for each market segment need to be evaluated against the possible reimbursement. For example, financial requirements could be in the form of hiring an office or employing clerical staff.
So as you can see, private practice marketing requires marketing skills as well as organizational and financial planning abilities. These should ideally be developed as part of the curriculum at occupational therapy schools. Marketing is one of the most important skills that occupational therapy schools need to arm their students with so that they are not left floundering when they finally set up their own private practice. Trying to pick up these skills at the time of setting up the practice is both distracting and time-consuming and you may just end up not being able to concentrate on your practice as a result.