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Being an SLP working in a school or hospital setting, you might have at some point in your life felt constricted by your work environment. You may even find yourself getting excited about opening your own private practice, wishing for the flexibility that inevitably follows. After all, as a business owner, you are your own boss. That means you get to make the final decision on all patient care, set your own schedule, and even build your own clientele.
Many SLPs dream about the potential benefits of starting their own practice but are often put off by the logistics. Legal requirements, business entity applications, documentation, and marketing can all be overwhelming, to say the least.
Steps to start a Private Practice in Speech Language Pathology
Create your Business Entity
Firstly, come up with a name for your practice. Some speech therapists simply use their first and last name along with their credentials (MS, CCC-SLP). Some SLPs pick a name for their practice.
Then there’s the question of the business structure: LLC or sole proprietorship?
These are the two most commonly used by SLPs who own a private practice. The primary distinction between an LLC and a sole proprietorship is that an LLC provides personal liability protection.
Get an NPI Number
You’ll need this to bill insurance companies. Even if you don’t accept insurance, some clients will want to submit invoices for reimbursement from their HSA. They’ll need your NPI number on the superbill to do so. Find it ahead of time so that it can be included in your paperwork. Your NPI can be found here.
Create a HIPAA-Compliant Structure
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a law that safeguards the privacy of patients. The storage, transmission, and privacy of health information, including the documentation of treatment plans and evaluation reports for speech therapy, are governed by HIPAA regulations. The law also includes electronic standards regulations. This includes conducting Teletherapy sessions and communicating with clients and families via a secure/HIPAA-compliant connection.
Failure to comply with HIPAA can result in civil monetary penalties of up to $1.5 million per year. Your clients’/patients’ data is considered Protected Health Information as a private practitioner (PHI).
Apply for a TIN/EIN issued by the government
For tax purposes, your private speech therapy practice will require a Tax Identification Number. This is also known as an Employer Identification Number.
The IRS website allows you to apply for a free TIN/EIN
Acquire liability insurance
A non-negotiable in terms of the legal aspects of starting your own private practise is Insurance for professional liability.
As a Speech-Language Pathologist, you must have liability insurance. It legally safeguards you against unforeseeable events such as a client falling out of his chair and injuring his arm during one of your sessions.
- What qualifications do I need to work in private practice?
There is no “special” level of ASHA certification or state licencing required to work in private speech-language pathology practice. For the private practice of either profession, ASHA certification and state licensure (where required) are sufficient.
- What state and local government agencies should I contact for more information on starting a practice?
If you want to practice from home or work from a business office, check to see if your local zoning laws allow you to open a home office, display advertising, or handle parking in a residential area. Contact the zoning board in your city or county.
Contact your state speech and hearing association for assistance in starting your business.
Through the state convention, the association newsletter, or interest groups, take advantage of opportunities. This includes mentoring and collaboration in developing your practice.
Contact your state health department to learn about state regulations that may affect your practice. For example, how long to keep medical records.
- What are the steps involved in creating a business plan?
According to the US Small Business Administration, a detailed business plan should include:
provides a path to follow (shows you how to achieve your objectives);
may aid in loan acquisition;
can provide suppliers, personnel, and others with useful information; and
can assist you in developing your management skills.
- How do I figure out how much to charge for my services?
Service fees may differ depending on region and setting. The primary consideration for full-time private practitioners is ensuring that their fees cover both direct and indirect service costs. Monthly expenses include equipment, office space, taxes, insurance, supplies, continuing education, licensing, membership fees, and so on. Estimated revenue-generating hours should be based on a realistic assessment of the number of sessions that can be provided in a day. This allows for travel time and cancellations, as well as time off for illness, vacation, and continuing education.
- In what circumstances will I require a contract?
If you are providing services to institutions like schools, agencies, or hospitals, you may have developed a standard employment contract, or the institution may already have an employment contract in place. If you are providing services to individuals privately, you may want to draught a statement of understanding. This includes the client’s disclosure of pertinent and important information.