With Americans taking a more active approach to their health, physical therapy businesses are changing to address their health-care needs. Once found exclusively in hospitals and used solely for stroke or accident rehabilitation, it's more common now to find physical therapists operating out of fitness centers, schools, large companies and free-standing locations and offering a wide variety of services.
According to Peter A. Towne, president of the private- practice sector of the American Physical Therapy Association, private-practice therapists are thriving. "The entrepreneurial aspect of physical therapy is bigger than it used to be," says Towne. "Often, private practitioners enter joint ventures with hospitals to cover outpatient services."
Of course, you don't have to be a physical therapist to profit from this market. If you've got the business skills but not the medical know-how, consider hiring experienced therapists to handle the hands-on work while you tackle marketing, management and the rest.
Why the growing need for physical therapy? "The population is living longer," says C. Shelby Durham, who opened Rehab Options Inc., a certified rehabilitation agency in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, in 1992. But physical therapy isn't just for older people, Durham is quick to point out; people with disabilities and sports injuries, among others, also benefit. "There's a tremendous need for our types of services."